Election B.C. begins crucial vote-counting Monday
VICTORIA — The fate of B.C.’s next government hangs in the balance as 179,380 absentee ballots are counted, and likely recounted, starting Monday.
Elections B.C. will begin its crucial “final count” process on Victoria Day. Normally, it’s a process that attracts little attention. But with no party winning a clear majority in the May 9 election, and several close races decided by only a handful of votes, the next government will likely be decided by the outcome.
First, Elections B.C. will recount the preliminary votes in Courtenay-Comox (where the NDP won by nine votes) and Vancouver FalseCreek (where the Liberals won by 560 votes). The independent elections agency previously rejected recount requests in four other ridings.
The district electoral officer in each of the 87 ridings will then start tallying the ballots not counted May 9. This includes absentee votes (from voters who voted outside their assigned district, or in advance), mail-in ballots, and special ballots collected by mobile voting teams in hospitals, isolated communities and logging and fishing camps.
The entire process could take until Wednesday.
Premier Christy Clark is hoping the final count swings Courtenay-Comox back to her B.C. Liberals, which would boost the party’s seat count from 43 to 44 and give the Liberals a bare majority in the legislature.
If it results in no changes, it would finalize the current preliminary seat count at 43 Liberal, 41 NDP and three Green — leaving a potential minority government propped up by whichever party the Greens choose to support.
There is also the possibility of additional judicial recounts if there were problems with the count, if races remain within a close margin (0.2 per cent of whatever the total votes cast), and if a candidate applies within six days.
Elections B.C. says it will update its website at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. starting Monday and during the three-day final count. It will also alert voters through its social media channels when a final result is known in a riding.
The Courtenay-Comox riding will likely take longer to tally, because of the initial recount, and the final results there are not expected to be known Monday.
Generally, absentee ballots have tended to favour New Democrats, because many are sent in by students who are voting while attending post-secondary schools not in their home riding. It is also difficult to compare absentee results from previous elections because electoral boundaries changed in 2017 in several key ridings, including Courtenay-Comox.
The parties are watching the results keenly.
“We are fully engaged in the recount and final count processes to ensure every vote is counted,” said Liberal spokesperson Emile Scheffel.
“We’re optimistic about our chances,” said NDP spokesperson Glen Sanford. “We’re going to make sure that everything is double-checked and voters have confidence in the outcome.”