A woman arrives at a polling station to vote in the provincial election in the riding of Vancouver-Fraserview, in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday May 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A woman arrives at a polling station to vote in the provincial election in the riding of Vancouver-Fraserview, in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday May 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Mail-in ballot uptake in B.C. influenced by political leaning, geography

Voters in the most left-leaning ridings much more likely to request packages than in right-leaning

Nearly 700,000 British Columbians have requested to vote in the provincial election by mail-in ballots – and data shows a person’s inclination to do so could be linked their political views and where they live.

Earlier this week, Elections BC said it had received 670,033 requests for the ballots as of Oct. 12 from the province’s 3,485,858 registered voters, representing nearly 20 per cent of the electorate.

Looking at the 10 most left-wing versus the 10 most right-wing ridings in the province — according to Vote Compass data from the last provincial election — there is a stark divide.

The average percentage of voters from the right-leaning ridings who requested a mail-in ballot was just over 12 per cent. In the left-leaning ridings nearly 25 per cent of voters requested ballots.

Bar Chart
Infogram

Vote Compass bases its political leaning analysis on residents’ answers to 30 issues-based questions, as opposed to self-declared political affiliation.

Richard Johnston, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, told Black Press Media he had not done a serious evaluation of Elections BC’s mail-in ballot data, but thought there could be something to the right-left divide.

“I don’t have a comprehensive theory here, but if the pattern is as you describe it, it’s oddly consistent with what’s going on in the United States,” he said.

“There, of course, we attribute it to the politicization of the whole process thanks to Trump trying to trash the mail-in ballots, but I wonder if there is something deeper going on.”

READ MORE: BC VOTES: Election officials receive ‘unprecedented’ number of mail-in-ballot requests

Johnston offered another potential factor on why left-leaning ridings might have such a dramatically higher uptake of mail-in ballots.

“I wonder if, in the case of the general left-versus-right, that the NDP was on election alert right from the start and basically urged its people to go get their ballots so there’d be nothing getting in the way of the votes on Election Day,” he said.

Comparing the 10 most rural and 10 most urban ridings — based on population density data from a 2015 BC Electoral Commission’s report — there is also a marked difference in uptake.

On average, in the most urban ridings, 20 per cent of voters requested ballots while only 10.6 per cent did in the rural ones.

Copy: Bar Chart
Infogram

Of course, there is significant overlap between political leaning and the rural-urban divide with urban districts tending toward more progressive candidates while rural districts tend to be more conservative.

Johnston said he expected to see a rural-urban difference, but was surprised by how dramatic it was.

“I was struck that, of course, the total size of the population is smaller, but just eyeballing it, Skeena and Stikine struck me as remarkably low,” he said.

In Skeena, just 1,639 of the 21,262 registered voters, or 7.7 per cent, have requested packages while only eight per cent of voters in Stikine (1,141 of 14,250) have taken up the offer.

Even more remarkable are two Northeast B.C. ridings at 5.5 per cent for Peace River North and 4.2 per cent for Peace River South.

Johnston suggested that could be the COVID-19 factor playing out even though he thought northerners would embrace the convenience of mail-in voting.

“What thought that occurred to me there was that there’s less fear of coronavirus there than in urban ridings generally because otherwise I thought how far do you have to go to get to a poll?” he said. “You’d have to go rather further in a rural place than in urban ones, but then again, you’re also less likely probably to encounter someone who has tested positive.”

READ MORE: BC VOTES 2020: Advance voting begins today at Smithers Curling Club

Johnston was also struck by the number of mail-in ballot requests from another region of the province.

“What leapt off the table for me was Vancouver Island, that urban or rural, Vancouver Island ridings seem to have a dramatically higher number of requests relative to registered voters,” he said.

For the 14 Vancouver Island ridings the average was 26 per cent with the low being North Island at 16.7 per cent and the high Victoria-Beacon Hill at 35.4 per cent.

Johnston speculated the interest on the island, where the Green Party held three seats at the dissolution of the legislature, could be related to the very recent election of Sonia Furstenau as the party’s leader.

“There may have been Green mobilization that’s a byproduct of the leadership convention,” he said.

With many pundits positing mail-in voting could play a significant role in the outcome of the election, there are a number of swing ridings worth reviewing. The election prediction site 338Canada lists 12 districts that are too close to call.

Of these, only Skeena and Saanich North and the Islands fall dramatically outside the provincial average in terms of mail-in ballots requested at 7.7 per cent and 30.1 per cent of the electorate respectively. The rest fall within the range of 13.4 per cent (Boundary Similkameen) and 26 per cent (North Vancouver-Seymour).

Copy: Copy: Bar Chart
Infogram

Elections BC also reported it has already received back 138,500 of the packages, roughly 21 per cent of those issued as of Oct. 12. In the 2017 election only 6,500 people voted by mail.

READ MORE: B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after election day: officials

Voters have right up to election day to request a package as long as it is received by Elections BC by 8 p.m. on voting day, Oct. 24.

Because up to 800,000 people may ultimately cast their vote by mail, officials have said it could be weeks before the final results are known.

BC politicsElection 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A photograph of the real firearm beside the replica firearm seized by VicPD in the early hours of April 18. (Courtesy VicPD)
Police seize loaded firearm, drugs during traffic stop in Victoria

Officers find cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl along with loaded handgun

Sidney council approved a broad package of tax relief measures, but concerns about its timing and effectiveness remain. (Black Press Media File).
President of cannabis company considers legal action against Sidney

Sidney already lost one legal action by another cannabis retailer in summer 2020

Colwood restaurants can use city property for patios. (Black Press Media file photo)
Temporary patios back on for Colwood restaurants

Council voted to extend temporary permits to 2022

Sidney Volunteer Fire Department as well as Sidney/North Saanich RCMP and BC Ambulance responded to a dryer fire on Orchard Avenue. (Sidney Volunteer Fire Department/Twitter)
Dryer fire doused in Sidney

Cause of Monday afternoon remains under investigation

(Black Press Media file photo)
Woman returned to West Shore on warrant after crashing in Oak Bay

Smashed car windows, stolen outboard, missing diamond round out police briefs

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Wickaninnish (Clifford Atleo) plays the drum while singing the Nuu-chah-nulth song on the court steps in Vancouver In a picture from April 2018. Photo credit, Melody Charlie.
Five western Vancouver Island First Nations celebrate legal fishing victory

Court ruling confirms Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights in case dating back to 2003

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Ladysmith-area Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Most Read