Election Integrity Processes

This webpage will help you understand the processes and procedures that protect provincial elections in British Columbia.

These processes and procedures span the entire election period. They begin before an election is called and end after the final results for the election are reported.

Independence and non-partisanship

As an independent, non-partisan office of the legislature, Elections BC receives its mandate directly from legislation.

Our non-partisan status means we treat all voters, candidates, and political parties fairly.  

This ensures that election processes are protected from political influence, and that elections are held on a fair and level playing field.

Voting and counting processes

Voter registration

Voters must register before voting in a provincial election.

Voter registration helps safeguard election integrity by ensuring that only eligible voters vote, and that each eligible voter only votes once.

To register, voters must be:

  • a Canadian citizen,
  • 18 years of age or older, and
  • a resident of B.C. for at least six months.

Registered voters are added to the Provincial Voters List.

The voters list contains the names and residential addresses of every registered voter in British Columbia. The list is continuously updated using information from voters, ICBC, Elections Canada, and local election officials.

The names of voters who have died are removed from the list based on information provided by the B.C. Vital Statistics Agency. Voters that move out of province are also removed from the list, based on data in the federal National Register of Electors.

When voters cast their ballot, they are crossed off the voters list as having voted, which prevents them from voting again.

You can register when you go to vote, but you need to bring voter ID that proves your identity, age and residential address.

It is a serious offence under the Election Act to provide false or misleading information when registering to vote. Individuals who are convicted of providing false or misleading information may receive a fine of up to $20,000, up to two years in prison, or both.

Voting

The voting process for provincial elections is designed to protect election integrity. Many familiar parts of the voting process are also election integrity safeguards.

One person, one vote

For example, the requirement for voters to provide ID to receive their ballot ensures that each eligible voter can only vote once. We call this principle of election integrity “one person, one vote.”

When voters cast their ballot, they are crossed off the voters list as having voted, which prevents them from voting again.

Multiple voting is a serious offence under the Election Act and subject to significant penalties. Any potential case of multiple voting is thoroughly investigated.

The secret ballot

Other parts of the voting process also protect election integrity, such as marking your ballot behind a voting screen, or placing your vote-by-mail ballot into the secrecy sleeve that comes with your vote-by-mail package. Once you have cast your ballot, it cannot be traced back to you, so no one can know who you voted for. We call this principle “the secrecy of the ballot.”

Voter-marked paper ballots

Votes are cast using voter-marked paper ballots. This is the gold standard in election administration, as a paper ballot cannot be “hacked.” All ballots are retained after they have been counted. This allows Elections BC to review them for counting audits, or if necessary, for a formal recount.

The Election Act specifically prohibits voting equipment that does not involve marking a paper ballot (e.g., internet voting).

Voting by mail

When voters vote by mail, the same principles apply to protect election integrity.

Voters can only apply for their own voting package, which is mailed directly to them.

Voters must complete their own vote-by-mail package unless they are unable to mark their ballot independently or require a translator. Individuals who assist another voter with voting by mail must sign the certification envelope in the vote-by-mail package.

To complete their vote-by-mail package, voters must sign a declaration confirming their eligibility to vote and verify their identity by providing a shared secret (their birthdate). Upon receipt by Elections BC, there is further screening to ensure voter eligibility, and then the voter is struck off the voters list.

Vote-by-mail ballots are put into a secrecy sleeve prior going into the return envelopes. This ensures that the secrecy of the ballot can be maintained when voting packages are prepared for counting.

Principles like one person one vote, the secrecy of the ballot, and using voter-marked paper ballots ensure a secure voting process.

For more information voting processes, see the Guide to Voting and Counting.

Counting

Processes for counting votes also protect election integrity.

Types of counting

In a provincial election, there are four types of counting:

  • Initial count — Initial count takes place in each electoral district immediately after close of voting on Final Voting Day. Initial count includes all ballots except for those that are not ready to be counted (such as vote-by-mail ballots received after the close of advance voting). Any ballots not counted at initial count are counted at final count. Candidates and candidate representatives may be present to observe initial count.
  • Recount of initial count — Some or all of the ballots counted at initial count may be recounted in certain circumstances. For example, all ballots considered at initial count will be recounted if preliminary results show a difference of 100 votes or fewer between the top two candidates in the electoral district. This is called a district electoral officer recount.
  • Final count — Final count takes place about one week after initial count. It includes all ballots not counted at initial count, such as vote-by-mail ballots received after the close of advance voting, or absentee ballots cast by out-of-district voters at voting places where networked strike-off is not available. Approximately 2% of ballots cast will be counted at final count.
  • Judicial recount — A judicial recount is conducted by a justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. It may include some or all the ballots for an election. District electoral officers must apply for a judicial recount if there is a tie vote or if the difference between the first two candidates is less than 1/500th of the total ballots considered. Candidates may also apply for judicial recounts under certain circumstances.

Quality assurance

There is a comprehensive quality assurance (QA) program in place to ensure all votes are counted accurately.

The QA program includes logic and accuracy testing of tabulators (the scanning equipment used to count ballots) before and after they are used.

These tests are conducted by feeding a set of ballots with a known outcome through the tabulator and confirming that that tabulator produces the expected result. A key feature of Elections BC’s methodology is that some of the ballots in the test deck are marked at the time of the test, so the expected outcome is not known by anyone until the test is underway.

In addition to logic and accuracy testing, the QA process includes a hand count of the ballots from a randomly selected tabulator in every electoral district. The tabulator selected for the hand count is chosen randomly at the time of the test. This hand count demonstrates that the tabulators produced accurate results

The QA program also includes ballot reconciliation, which means that all ballots issued to election officials have been accounted for, and that ballots issued to voters reconcile to vote totals from tabulators.

Voter-marked paper ballots from all voting places are retained for recounts.

For more information about counting processes, see the Guide to Voting and Counting.

Offences

It is a serious offence under the Election Act to interfere with counting processes. Individuals who attempt to interfere with counting processes may receive significant penalties, including a fine of up to $10,000, up to one year in prison, or both.

Transparency and Oversight

Transparency and oversight provide additional protection against threats to election integrity.

We publish detailed information about election processes on our website and, during an election, there are many opportunities for candidates and their representatives to observe these processes in person.

Candidate representatives (also known as scrutineers) can observe voting and counting processes at voting places, in district electoral offices, and at Elections BC headquarters in Victoria.

This includes observation of the “zero tape.”

Zero tape

Before voting begins, election officials demonstrate that no votes are stored in the tabulators.

This involves printing a results tape for each tabulator that shows zero votes have been counted (the zero tape). The results tape remains attached to the tabulator, where candidate representatives can sign the tape before voting begins. Once voting has closed, results will be printed on the same tape as the zero tape. Candidate representatives will know it’s the same tape because they signed it before voting began.

Enforcing election legislation

Elections BC protects election integrity by enforcing election legislation.

Registration of political participants

Candidates, political parties and third-party advertising sponsors must register with Elections BC to participate in a provincial election.

For example, the Election Act requires candidates to file a nomination application with Elections BC to confirm their eligibility and disclose any affiliation with a political party.

Registration of political participants provides transparency for voters and allows Elections BC to regulate political activity according to the rules in the Election Act.

Use the links below to learn more about registration of political participants:

Electoral finance rules

The Election Act has rules for financing during provincial elections that apply to candidates, political parties and third-party advertising sponsors. These rules regulate how political participants can raise and spend money for election expenses, and what they must disclose publicly about their fundraising and spending after an election.

Electoral finance rules protect election integrity by providing transparency for voters and leveling the playing field for political participants.

Political contributions

There are rules for accepting political contributions in B.C.

For example, the Election Act prohibits political contributions from foreign sources. Political participants must only accept contributions from eligible individuals (someone who is a resident of B.C. and a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and who uses their own funds).

There are also annual contribution limits that set out the maximum amounts eligible individuals can contribute to support political activities in B.C. Political participants must ensure they do not accept more than the annual limit from any contributor.

Expense limits

Candidates, political parties and third-party sponsors are subject to expense limits during a provincial election.

For the 2024 Provincial General Election, a political party’s election expenses limit is $1.16 times the total number of registered voters, and a candidate’s election expenses limit is $58,000. A third-party advertising sponsor may spend a maximum of $3,000 in a single electoral district, and $150,000 overall in the province.

Expense limits level the playing field for political participants and prevent an undue influence of money in elections.

Disclosure and reporting requirements

Political participants must file financial disclosure reports that include information about the source of their political contributions and election expenses. Elections BC reviews these reports to ensure all legislated rules are being followed.

Advertising

The Election Act has rules for advertising during a provincial election.

For example, all election advertising must include an authorization statement. Authorization statements identify who paid for the advertisement and how voters can contact them.

This increases transparency and lets voters know who is spending money to influence their vote.

Restrictions on false statements and misrepresentation

The Election Act also prohibits individuals and organizations from deliberately transmitting specific types of disinformation that are objectively false. This includes:

False statements that a candidate has withdrawn

Individuals and organizations must not publish a false statement that a candidate has withdrawn.

Example

A social media post claiming that a candidate has withdrawn, if:

  • the candidate has not made any public statement that they have withdrawn or intend to withdraw, and
  • the candidate has not officially withdrawn through Elections BC.

[Election Act, s. 259(1)(b)]

False statements to affect election results

During a pre-campaign or campaign period, individuals and organizations must not transmit a false statement that a candidate, nomination contestant, political party leader, public figure associated with a candidate, or public figure associated with a political party has committed or been charged with an offence, or has been required to pay an administrative monetary penalty.

They must also not transmit false statements related to the citizenship, place of birth, education, professional qualifications, membership in a group, or membership in an association of a candidate, nomination contestant, political party leader, or public figure associated with a political party.

These prohibitions apply to false statements transmitted by any means, if the individual or organization transmitting the false statement intends to affect the results of an election, and knows the statement is false, or has a reckless disregard as to whether the statement is false.

Example

An open letter stating that a candidate has been charged with an offence under the Election Act, if:

  • Elections BC confirms that the candidate has not been charged with an offence,
  • the open letter is transmitted during the pre-campaign or campaign period (July 23 to October 19, 2024),
  • the individual or organizations transmitting the letter:
  • intends to affect the result of an election, and
  • knows that the statement in the letter is false or has a reckless disregard as to whether the statement is false.

[Election Act, s. 234.1]

False statements about election officials and voting administration tools

During a pre-campaign or election period, individuals and organizations must not transmit a false statement that:

  • an election official has committed or been charged with an offence;
  • an election official has been required to pay an administrative monetary penalty;
  • relates to the citizenship, place of birth, education, professional qualifications, membership in a group, or membership in an association of an election official; or
  • relates to an individual or organization that provides, to Elections BC, voting administration tools or services related to voting administration tools.

Voting administration tools include electronic voting books, electronic tabulators, ballot printers, and any other tools prescribed by regulation.

These prohibitions apply to false statements transmitted by any means, if the individual or organization transmitting the false statement intends to undermine public confidence in the result or administration of an election, and knows the statement is false, or if has a reckless disregard as to whether the statement is false.

Example

A digital ad claiming the organization that provides Elections BC with electronic tabulators has filed for bankruptcy due to plummeting sales from the unreliability of its products, if:

  • Elections BC confirms the statement in the ad is false,
  • the ad is transmitted during the pre-campaign or election period (July 23 to November 5, 2024),
  • the individual or organizations transmitting the ad:
  • intends to undermine public confidence in the result or administration of an election, and
  • knows that the statement in the ad is false or has a reckless disregard as to whether the statement is false.

[Election Act, s. 234.2]

False election information

During a pre-campaign or campaign period, individuals and organizations must not transmit false or misleading information about voter eligibility, voter registration procedures, or election proceedings. This includes false or misleading information about voting options and voting opportunities.

These prohibitions apply to false or misleading material or information transmitted by any means, regardless of its form, if the individual or organization transmitting the material or information intends to affect the results of an election.

Example

An online article stating voters must show photo ID to vote in the 2024 Provincial Election if:

  • the article is published during the pre-campaign or campaign period (July 23 to October 19, 2024), and
  • the individual or organization publishing the article intends to affect the results of an election.

[Election Act, s. 234.3]

Unauthorized material or information

During a pre-campaign or election period, individuals and organizations must not transmit any material or information that appears or claims to be transmitted by the chief electoral officer (Elections BC), an election official, a candidate, a nomination contestant, a registered political party or a registered constituency association. This applies to any material or information, regardless of its form, that the entities above have not authorized.

This prohibition applies if the individual or organization intends to mislead the public that the material or information is being transmitted by or under the authority of the entities listed above. Parody and satire are exempt from this prohibition.

Example

A press release sent that falsely appears to be sent by Elections BC, if:

  • the press release is sent during the pre-campaign or election period (July 23 to November 5, 2024), and
  • the individual or organization sending the press release intends to mislead the public that the press release was transmitted by or under the authority of Elections BC.

[Election Act, s. 234.4]

Misrepresentation

An individual or organization must not falsely appear or claim to be:

  • a candidate,
  • a registered political party,
  • a registered constituency association,
  • an individual authorized to act on behalf of a candidate,
  • an individual authorized to act on behalf of a registered political party, or
  • an individual authorized to act on behalf of a registered constituency association.

The prohibitions apply in relation to an election. Parody and satire are exempted from these prohibitions.

Example

A direct message on a social media platform that falsely appears to be sent by the campaign manager for a candidate in the 2024 Provincial Election.

[Election Act, s. 234.5]

Penalties

Violating the Act’s prohibitions against false statements and misrepresentation can result in significant monetary penalties (up to $20,000).

The Act also gives the Chief Electoral Officer the power to order individuals or organizations to stop transmitting false election advertising or other communications. Non-compliance can result in penalties of up to $50,000 per day for every day they fail to comply.

Investigations

Elections BC opens investigations when there is evidence that a substantial case of non-compliance has occurred. We open investigations on our own initiative or in response to a complaint.

If an investigation concludes that non-compliance likely occurred, depending on the nature of the non-compliance and the specific facts of the case, Elections BC may:

  • Send a warning letter to the subject,
  • apply an administrative monetary penalty, or
  • refer the matter to the Ministry of Attorney General to consider offence charges.

To learn more, see Our Investigation Process.