Elections BC sent out almost 700,000 mail voting packages as of Oct. 14 with just under 3.5 million registered voters. (Black Press Media File)

Elections BC sent out almost 700,000 mail voting packages as of Oct. 14 with just under 3.5 million registered voters. (Black Press Media File)

COLUMN: In praise of public servants

The snap election could have gone a lot less smoothly if not for the work of Elections BC officials

With Election Day come and gone, B.C.’s government is left in a strange, weeks-long limbo.

The NDP will govern with a majority, but with a record number of mail-in ballots to count there are still a handful of MLA races to iron out.

It’s a good time to reflect on those members of government who are busy doing the ironing.

Elections BC aims to have the final election results ready by Nov. 16. With more than 500,000 mail-in votes pending, several ridings are left hanging in the balance.

No race is tighter than Vernon-Monashee, with incumbent BC Liberal candidate Eric Foster holding just a 0.9 percentage point lead over NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu.

Now poised to head the largest-ever NDP majority government in B.C.’s history, John Horgan called a snap election on Sept. 21, giving Elections BC staff 33 days to get their ducks in a row.

By most accounts, they did just that.

Despite short notice and a number of COVID-19 considerations at play, the election was safe, efficient and functional.

Elected officials will always get the limelight in the wake of an election, but our public servants deserve praise for the work they did to set up an election these circumstances.

READ MORE: Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

READ MORE: Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

It would be easier to take for granted the work Canada’s public servants do to facilitate democracy without the stark contrast we see south of the border.

The U.S. presidential election has long had its Nov. 3 date set in stone as part of its standard election cycle. Despite plenty of time to organize, many early-voting Americans have stood in queues for as long as 11 hours.

In B.C. there were 1,253 polling stations available on Election Day – one for every 2,800 registered voters. Compare that to a state such as Florida, which requires just one polling station per precinct.

With its 14.4 million registered voters as of Oct. 6, that would make for one required voting place per 25,000 registered voters – far from ideal in a state with 786,000 COVID-19 cases and counting.

In Vernon, and throughout much of the province, going through the polls took as little as five minutes for many. I spoke with more than a dozen people as they came through the polls at the Vernon Recreation Centre.

Practically all of them described the experience as safe and well organized, and most went out of their way to compliment the voting officers on their friendliness and helpfulness.

Similar observations were made by reporters throughout the Southern Interior and across the province.

We’re fortunate to have a well-oiled machine when it comes to organizing a fair and safe electoral process. So, while we wait until Nov. 16 for the final counts, let’s recognize the people who pulled off an election in the middle of a pandemic in little over a month.

Let’s be thankful for those who toil humbly in the background to keep the gears of our democracy turning.

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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