An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
WITH TWO DAYS TO GO to election day in B.C., some 700,000 British Columbians have asked for mail-in ballots. Elections BC has been slow updating its numbers lately, but as of a week ago, about 138,000 packages had been returned.
The deadline for receiving mail-in ballots is 8 p.m. on Saturday, election day.
The numbers make it clear there’s been a huge uptake in mail-in voting this year but it might not translate into a high turnout. Many of those ballots might not be returned in time to be counted, which makes the whole exercise of questionable value.
So why the election-day deadline? Wouldn’t it make more sense to count ballots as long as they’re postmarked before then? Many jurisdictions, including the one to the south of us, do it that way.
For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled that late ballots can be counted as long as they’re postmarked by election day Nov. 3. Previously in that state, they had to be received by election day.
Fact is, the final count in B.C. won’t happen for 13 days after Saturday due to the need for “preparatory work” that includes screening ballots for authenticity. Elections BC says it could actually take longer this time.
So, it would be easy to set a two-week deadline after election day before which mail-in ballots properly postmarked must be received. That would remove most of the problem with late ballots and ensure they’re included in the count.
It’s quite possible it will be clear by the end of the night Saturday who’s going to form government, but we’ll have to wait awhile for the exact numbers, like we always do. It’s pointless to leave mail-in ballots sitting around for two weeks without adding those received during that two-week period.
We’re stuck with the current rules right now, but they should be changed next time.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.