B.C. is voting by mail at unprecedented rates this fall and Vancouver Island is leading the way.
In the 14 Vancouver Island ridings the average request for mail-in ballots was 26 per cent with the low being North Island at 16.7 per cent and the high Victoria-Beacon Hill at 35.4 per cent.
This share is far ahead of the provincial ratio, which currently stands at 20 per cent, with Elections BC having issued a record 697,768 mail-in ballots with 3,485,858 million voters on the registration rolls. By comparison, 6,517 people voted by mail in 2017.
Andy Watson, a spokesperson with Elections BC, said the COVID-19 pandemic bears responsibility for the historic development.
“I think voters were looking for a remote voting option, where they are able to vote without having to go in person, ” he said. “Obviously, we have in-person opportunities as well and we have done a lot of work to make sure those are safe as well, but we wanted to give voters the options of either voting by mail or in person with pandemic protocols in place.”
Watson said officials at Elections BC had estimated 35 per cent of voters (some 800,000) would vote by mail. “Certainly, we are getting close to that figure,” he said. (As of Oct. 14 Elections BC has received an estimated 148,200 returned vote-by-mail packages, representing approximately 21 per cent of packages issued to date).
Voters have until Oct. 17 to request a mail-in ballot. Elections BC must receive complete vote-by-mail packages before 8 p.m. on Oct. 24.
Watson said Elections BC is keeping up with requests, but added that voters requesting packages now will get their packages after the recommended date (Oct. 17) to return it by mail.
Voters can also still return off their mail-in votes in person, Watson said. “Instead of dropping it in a mail box, they would just take it to a district electoral office, a voting place during voting hours, or some Service BC locations would also accept them.”
Victoria-Beacon Hill leads all ridings in Greater Victoria and the province with 17,810 issued mail-in ballots, a share of 36.5 per cent when held up against registered voters. Saanich North and the Islands ranks second on Vancouver Island as well as the province in terms of absolute numbers, just ahead of Oak Bay-Gordon Head in third place for the region and the province with 15,450 issued mail ballots. When held up against the number of registered voters in that riding, nearly 36.4 per cent of registered voters in that riding have received mail-by-vote ballots.
When measured against registered voters, Saanich South has a request rate of nearly 33.5 per cent, Victoria-Swan Lake of 31 per cent, Esquimalt-Metchosin of 28.8 per cent, and Langford-Juan de Fuca has a request rate of almost 25 per cent. Other ridings on Vancouver Island like Parksville-Qualicum have also recorded comparable figures.
When asked about the geographic breakdown, Watson pointed to Vancouver Island as one of the regions where it is more popular than others. But he could not offer a definitive rationale. While age might be factor, Watson said Elections BC does not have a data to confirm one way or another.
“That seems reasonable, but we haven’t done any digging into the data on that side of things,” he said.
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