Hurry up and wait. The election was called in a hurry but it seems we will all be waiting for the results.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the results of the BC election will be incomplete on October 24th and, due to Elections BC processes, it may take another month or more before we know the final outcome.
Why? So far, over 430,000 mail ballots have been requested with an estimated 800,000 expected. Elections BC updates the number every day. (You can request a mail-in ballot from Elections BC here)
Google, er, Vaughn, how many ballots were cast last time?
From 6,600 to maybe 800,000 ! That’s approaching 40% of the amount of British Columbians expected to vote (2 million voted last time).
Hey Vaughn, why does the counting take so long?
As Vaughn notes above, all of the mail-in ballots have to be verified and vetted after Election Day to make sure people don’t vote by mail and vote at a polling station, they must verify that they are legitimate ballots, and the packages also must be sorted into 87 piles so that they are counted in the correct ridings.
Normally, the Final Count begins on the 13th day after Election Day (November 6th) but it may take longer to verify and vet the ballots.
How long, Vaughn?
If that is the case, they may not start counting the ballots until almost four weeks after Election Day. Then they have to manually count upwards of 800,000 ballots. It’s not like they haven’t done that before – they did it in 2018 with regard to the ProRep referendum, but it does take time. Plus, you can expect way more challenges of ballots since thousands of ballots are being cast without even knowing who the candidates are. The intention of the voter must be clear. In close races, lawyers and scrutineers for the main parties will be buzzing around like hornets.
What does this mean for Election Night? On October 24th, after the polls close at 8pm, all of the ballots from Election Day and advance polls are counted. In 2017, over 90% of all ballots were counted on Election Night (the remainder were counted at the Final Count). About 61% of British Columbians voted on Election Day, while about 30% voted in the advance polls.
In 2017, Courtenay-Comox was so close on Election Night that the remaining ballots did make the difference. Usually, there are a few ridings that go down to the wire, but it’s not often that the verdict of the entire election hangs on it, like it did last time.
This time, instead of 91% of the votes being counted on Election Night, far fewer – maybe as low as 50-60% – will be counted making the final outcome uncertain in a lot of ridings.
As I noted in an earlier post, twenty-two ridings were settled by a margin of 10% or less in 2017. You could have about as many or maybe more hanging in the balance for a month, maybe more, while the votes are counted.
Therefore, there is going to be a weird interregnum between October 24th and sometime in mid-late November (early December?) where we do not know the final outcome of the campaign. Premier John Horgan and his cabinet (including the retiring cabinet ministers like Carole James, Shane Simpson and Claire Trevena) will continue to govern in ‘caretaker mode’ until this is settled conclusively.
It will be torture for those candidates in the battleground seats. There won’t be any doubt in ‘safe’ seats, but there will be some candidates who lead on Election Night and lose in the Final Count, and vice versa. The waiting is the absolute worst.
Ironically, we may know the final outcome of the hotly-contested US presidency by American Thanksgiving but still be wondering which leader gets to carve up the turkey in British Columbia.
Vaughn, when do you think we will know? Vaughn…? Vaughn… ?