These are uncharted waters for Elections BC.

It’s the first time B.C. has held a provincial election during a global pandemic.

There wasn’t one held during the influenza pandemic of 1918 to 1920.

With that in mind, Election BC is putting measures in place to help voters cast their ballot safely in person.

Safe voting practices for voting places are available at elections.bc.ca/safevoting and will include:

  • Physical distancing
  • Capacity limits
  • Election officials wearing personal protective equipment (such as masks and face-visors)
  • Protective barriers
  • Hand sanitizing stations
  • Frequent cleaning of voting stations and frequently touched surfaces

You’ll be encouraged to wear a mask when you vote and you’ll also be asked to wash your hands before and after you cast your ballot.

To prevent close contact, some familiar voting procedures may be different.

For example, you’ll make a verbal declaration of your eligibility to vote instead of signing a voting book.

You can also bring their own pen or pencil to mark your ballot.

“Our main focus is ensuring a safe and accessible voting process during the pandemic,” said Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman. “We have been working with Dr. Bonnie Henry’s office to develop our safe voting plans and make sure that voters don’t have to choose between safeguarding their health and exercising their right to vote. All voters have the option of voting in person with protective measures in place, or voting by mail.”

B.C.’s 42nd provincial general election happens Saturday, Oct. 24th.

Voting in person

Advance voting is from Thursday, Oct. 15th to Wednesday, Oct. 21st, as well as on Election Day.

Advance voting places will be open from 8:00am to 8:00pm.

There will be seven days of advance voting, up from six in 2017.

The advance voting period includes two weekend days, Saturday, Oct.17th, and Sunday, Oct.18th.

Voting places will be open on Election Day (Oct. 24th) from 8:00am to 8:00pm.

Voting places and the dates they are open are being confirmed and will be available on Elections BC’s website. They will also be listed on Where to Vote cards sent to every registered voter in the province before the start of the advance voting period.

Voters should stay home if they are feeling sick or self-isolating and request a vote-by-mail package instead.

 Voting by mail

Voting by mail is an option for all eligible voters.

To vote by mail, you need to request a voting package.

They can be requested now on the Elections BC website at elections.bc.ca/ovr or by phone at 1-800-661-8683.

The vote-by-mail package will be mailed to the voter with instructions on how to complete it and return it to Elections BC.

Elections BC expects a huge increase in voting by mail this election.

In past elections, around one percent of votes in a provincial election were cast by mail.

Surveys done by Elections BC in May and August indicate that 30 to 35 percent of ballots cast this election could be done by mail.

Voter registration

You can register or update your information online at elections.bc.ca/ovr, or by calling 1-800-661-8683.

Voter registration by phone closes at 8:00pm on Saturday, Sept. 26th. Voter registration online closes at 11:59:59 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26th.

You can still register or update your voter registration when you vote, but it will make the voting process longer.

Elections BC encourages voters to make sure their information is up to date so they can vote faster, help reduce lineups at voting places and support physical distancing.

 Election official jobs

Elections BC is recruiting election officials to work at advance voting and on Election Day. Visit elections.bc.ca/jobs for more information.

 Candidate nominations

Prospective candidates can submit completed nomination packages to Elections BC’s head office in Victoria until 4:30pm tomorrow (Sept. 23).

Completed packages can be submitted in person or electronically.

Starting at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24th, completed nomination packages must be submitted to the district electoral officer for the district the candidate intends to run in.

Candidate nominations close at 1:00pm on Friday, October 2.

The final list of candidates will be posted online at elections.bc.ca once nominations close.

District electoral offices

District electoral offices will be open in every electoral district across the province as soon as possible. Locations and contact information will be listed on the Elections BC website when available.

B.C. is not the first province to hold a  general election during the pandemic.

New Brunswick held its provincial election on Sept. 14th, 2020.

Saskatchewan’s election happens on Oct. 26th.

There are 87 electoral districts in British Columbia.

As of Sept. 20th, there were 3,469,162 registered voters in B.C.

Voter turnout as a percentage of registered voters in the past three provincial elections in BC was:

  • 2017 – 61.2 percent
  • 2013 – 57.1 percent
  • 2009 – 55.1 percent