Pandemic complicates voting for Richmondites

Anyone voting at a polling station on Oct. 24 can get a free pencil to take home. Or you can just bring your own pen or pencil.

Jackie Asante, the district electoral officer in the riding of Richmond-Steveston, said pencils used for marking ballots won’t be re-used by Elections BC at polling stations in order to reduce touch points during the COVID-19 pandemic — “it will be your souvenir,” she said.

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There will also be masks, face shields, plexiglass, gloves and sanitation stations for staff to use in their effort to curb the spread of the virus during voting.

Voters are encouraged to wear masks, and they won’t be asked to remove them while casting a ballot.

And, instead of signing a declaration to state their eligibility to vote in the riding, voters will make an oral declaration that will be recorded by an election worker, explained Asante.

These are just some of the details Elections BC officials have had to think through as they run an election during a pandemic.

This election, the focus was on finding spacious venues for voting to allow for physical distancing, Asante explained, and there will be fewer officials watching the voting in order to reduce physical contact.

Many options for voting

Options for voting include mail-in ballots, advance voting and voting at a district electoral office — all of these were available before, but especially mail-in voting has risen in popularity with almost 600,000 voters requesting mail-in ballots.

Ballots sent through the mail, however, need to be received by 8 p.m. Oct. 24, so Elections BC spokesperson Andrew Watson recommends getting them into the mail by Oct. 17.

If voters have mail-in ballots after Oct. 17, they can fill them out and drop them off at a district electoral office in-person until 4 p.m. on voting day.

Mail-in ballots can be filled out with either the name of the candidate in that riding or the party, explained Asante. But writing the name of the leader of a party won’t be accepted by Elections BC because they are not the candidate in that riding.

If there is any issue around the interpretation of a name, it’s up to the district electoral officer to determine the “intent of the voter,” Asante added.

Mail-in ballots can be requested by phone or online until Oct. 17 (go to elections.bc.ca for more information), but anyone can pick up a voting package from a district electoral office right up to voting day.

Advance voting takes place on seven days prior to the election, from Oct. 15 to Oct. 21.

Voting can also be done at district electoral offices until 4 p.m. Oct. 24.

District electoral offices

Richmond-Steveston: 11920 Forge. Pl.

Richmond-Queensborough: #300-13955 Bridgeport Rd.

Richmond South Centre: #206-4451 No. 3 Rd.

Richmond North Centre: #408-5300 No. 3 Rd.

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