Elec­tion B.C. be­gins cru­cial vote-count­ing Mon­day

The Province - - NEWS - ROB SHAW rshaw@post­media.com twit­ter.com/rob­shaw_­van­sun

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.”

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