How to vote in the federal election if you've been evacuated from your home because of wildfires

·3 min read
There are multiple options for you if you're away from home and want to vote in next month's federal election. (Doug Ives/The Canadian Press - image credit)
There are multiple options for you if you're away from home and want to vote in next month's federal election. (Doug Ives/The Canadian Press - image credit)

As it prepares for next month's federal election, Elections Canada is recommending people evacuated from their homes due to B.C.'s raging wildfires vote by mail.

Thousands of residents remain displaced by nearly 260 wildfires in British Columbia, with fire season expected to last well into the fall.

With polling day set for Sept. 20, there are concerns that voting could be inaccessible for people in wildfire zones with changing winds and volatile conditions.

Andrea Marantz, a B.C. spokesperson for Elections Canada, says the federal body is working with emergency services to put together contingency plans for election day.

"We are trying not to set plans in stone, but to take a flexible approach and consult with the people who are affected," she said.

While voting on election day has been the most common way to cast your ballot historically, Elections Canada is expecting a higher number of mail-in ballots this time — not only due to wildfires, but also due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But those who are used to voting in person might not have access to the same voting booth they're used to, as the elections agency looks to transfer polls to locations away from burning fires.

Marantz says registered voters should check the Elections Canada website for their voting site, as conditions shift over the next month, by inputting their home postal code closer to election day.

How to vote by mail if you're away from home

Voters not currently at home can still register to have ballots delivered to them, according to the Elections Canada.

"If you have a friend or a relative who is in a secure area, you could request that your ballot be mailed to them," Marantz said.

Voters have until 6 p.m. on Sept. 14 to apply for a mail-in ballot and have to mail in their ballot by voting day, Sept.20.

Losing your identification in a fire

The provincial government recommends you take essential documents like driver's licences and insurance papers when forced to evacuate from your home.

If you are cut off from your identification during an evacuation order, Marantz still says there are contingency options available during an emergency.

"There are many things that you can use as identification. There's a complete list on our website," she said.

"In a lot of these situations where people are being evacuated by emergency services, they do have records of who these people are."

If all else fails, however, a registered voter can vouch for you on election day. Marantz says they would have to sign an oath at the polling station.

Where to check for voting information during an emergency

If a severe weather event or wildfire strikes on election day, Marantz says you should continue to check the Elections Canada website for up-to-date information.

Another option is to call your local returning office that is listed on your voter information card, which Marantz says will be going out to registered voters in the next two to three weeks.

"It is early days and returning offices are still opening. It may be a few days before all of these systems are available, but some of them are available now."

Do you have a question about the federal election? Send them to ask@cbc.ca or leave it in the comments. We're answering as many as we can leading up to election day.

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