Impact of Election Act changes for by-election voters and volunteers

By Rachel H Roy

The by-elections in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and Vancouver-Mount Pleasant are the first provincial elections to be held since the BC Election Act was amended last May. As advance voting starts this weekend, now is a good time to review how these changes will impact voters and volunteers. As many of us saw during the recent federal election, legislative amendments can affect voting procedures on the ground in both positive and negative ways: sometimes these result in a more efficient use of volunteers, while other times these changes may lead to longer waiting times for voters on voting days.

Practical impact of the recent Election Act changes:

Two extra days of advance voting have been added, for a total of six days. For the by-elections, these are scheduled on  Sat-Sun, Jan 23-24 and Wed-Sat, Jan 27-30.

Any person who is vouching for another person must show ID (previously, family members vouching for each other did not have to show ID).

Like federal elections (and elections in many other provinces), election officials in BC will now be preparing “bingo sheets” on E-Day for campaigns. Bingo sheets identify the sequence numbers of those who have already voted, allowing campaigns to focus their GOTV (“get out the vote”) efforts on those who haven’t yet voted.

NOTE: Bingo sheets only identify registered voters (i.e. those already on the voters’ list with sequence numbers assigned), so anyone who registers at the voting place when they go to vote will not appear on a bingo sheet. In practical terms, this means that the number of votes cast will be higher than the number of voters identified on the bingo sheets. Further, as the recent legislative amendments have effectively eliminated the revised voters’ list, more people will likely be required to register when they go to vote.

Election officials will also provide campaigns with information about who voted in advance, further streamlining the GOTV process for E-Day. However, the advance voting information will include those who registered to vote at advance voting places, unlike the E-Day bingo sheets.

In addition, parties and candidates can now request voter turnout lists once an election is over. This is significant as it provides the opportunity to assess, post-election, how resource allocations and GOTV strategies translated into actual votes on the ground. Previously, information about who voted had to be manually tracked by volunteers at each voting place and then entered into a database. Anyone who has ever faced a mountain of scribbled-on bingo sheets requiring data entry on E+1 will be very pleased (and relieved) to hear this!

Finally, the posting of messages online solely for the purpose of encouraging people to vote is now clearly and explicitly excluded from the election advertising blackout on E-Day. So, on February 2nd, use Facebook and Twitter to tell your friends and followers in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and Vancouver-Mount Pleasant to go vote!