Nearly 650,000 people have registered to vote by mail in the upcoming provincial election.
The Oct. 24 election was called three weeks ago on Sept. 21.
In an update posted on Twitter Friday, Elections BC said it has received 646,000 mail-in ballot requests so far.
That’s a “significant jump” from the 2017 election, which saw just over 11,000 requests for vote-by-mail packages – about 6,500 of which were returned by election day, according to Andrew Watson, Election BC’s communications director.
“We were estimating it could be as high as 800,000 (requests this election), so we are approaching that,” Watson said.
Completed packages must be received by Elections BC before 8 p.m. on Oct. 24.
Elections BC recommends voters mail their vote-by-mail packages by Oct. 17 to make sure they arrive on time.
It can take weeks to verify and count mail-in ballots – a process established in legislation, said Watson.
On election night, ballots cast in advance voting and on election day will be counted. Then, 13 days later, the final count will take place.
During the final count, all absentee and mail-in ballots are counted, Watson said, a process that typically takes two to three days. In 2017, for example, elections officials counted about 200,000 absentee and mail-in ballots in total.
“The reason that the legislation establishes that timeline is because on election day, we’ll have received vote-by-mail packages from voters right up until they close the voting all across the province,” Watson said.
The mail-in ballots are then sent back to voters’ district of residence and screened, with officials ensuring, for example, that the voter only voted once and was registered to vote.
“It’s a really important part of the integrity of the process, and all of that screening and integrity checks, can’t happen until after election day to make sure that someone didn’t vote on election day and then return a mail-in ballot too,” said Watson.
To request a vote-by-mail package, go to elections.bc.ca or call Elections BC at 1-800-661-8683.
Advance voting will also take place starting next week, with polls open for seven days from Oct. 15 to 21.