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Voting by phone an option for some in B.C. election

Last Updated Oct 22, 2020 at 2:09 pm PDT

File photo of Apple's iPhone 12. (PHOTO: Mike Yawney, CityNews)
Summary

Phone voting introduced in 2017 to expand access for voters with disabilities and health issues

Voters in COVID-19 isolation or who didn't receive mail-in ballot can also call to vote

Two-step process ensures security and anonymity of phone voting

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – By now, you’re likely aware there are two main ways to vote in B.C.’s provincial election – by mail or in-person, either at advance polls or on election day this Saturday.

But there’s a third, lesser-known option: voting over the phone.

Elections BC’s assisted telephone voting program was introduced for the 2017 election.

Access for disabled, sick and self-isolated voters

The method is meant to make voting more accessible for people with vision loss, a disability or health condition that makes it hard or impossible to vote in person.

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“It’s an important accessibility measure for voters who otherwise could not vote independently,” Elections BC spokesperson Andrew Watson said.

This year, people self-isolating at home because they either have or have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 have been added to the list of voters eligible to vote by phone.

Of the more than 724,000 mail-in ballots issued, roughly 300 were returned to Elections BC as “undeliverable,” Watson said.

He said voters who requested these ballots have also been given the option to vote by phone.

Phone votes counted with mail-in ballots

As of Thursday, some 1,900 people had cast a ballot over the phone, nearly doubling the roughly 1,000 who did so in 2017, according to Watson.

The results from phone voting won’t be added to the official tallies until at least two week after voting day when mail-in ballots are counted.

A two-step process is in place to ensure the security and anonymity of your vote is secured, Watson said.

Security and anonymity preserved

When you call in, an operator will confirm your identity by requesting a “shared secret” between you and Elections BC, such as the final six digits of your social insurance number. Next, you will be transferred to a second operator who doesn’t know your identity.

The second operator will then read you the list of candidates in your electoral district and ask who you want to vote for. The operator then marks a physical ballot as a team watches to “ensure that the ballot was marked in accordance with the voter’s wishes,” Watson said.