Chief Electoral Officer Recommends Election Act Changes

May 30, 2022

VICTORIA – Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman has submitted a report to the Legislative Assembly recommending changes to the Election Act.

The report highlights two priority recommendations for legislators to consider:

  • Improve the vote-by-mail process
  • Update ballot adjudication criteria for write-in ballots

The reports stems from Elections BC’s experience administering the 2020 Provincial General Election, which saw a record number of mail-in ballots.

The recommendations to improve the vote-by-mail process include expanding the locations where voters can drop-off their completed vote-by-mail package, and letting voters correct their vote-by-mail package if they make a mistake completing it.

The report also recommends allowing voters to write the name of a party leader on a write-in ballot, even if the party leader is not running in the voter’s electoral district. Currently, voters must mark their write-in ballot with the name of a candidate running in their electoral district or the name of a political party that has endorsed a candidate in their district. This recommendation would treat the name of a party leader as equivalent to the name of their party.

The report contains technical recommendations in addition to the priority recommendations above. It also includes an addendum to the Chief Electoral Officer’s 2020 recommendations report on cyber threats to electoral integrity.

Link to full report:

The report and its recommendations are summarized in the attached backgrounder. If adopted by the Legislative Assembly, these recommendations would help strengthen the accessibility, efficiency, and integrity of B.C.’s democratic process.


  • Backgrounder: Summary of Recommendations

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Andrew Watson
Director, Communications
Elections BC
Phone: 250-387-1709

Elections BC is an independent, non-partisan Office of the Legislature responsible for administering electoral processes in British Columbia under provincial legislation, including the Election Act, Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, Recall and Initiative Act and Referendum Act.


May 30, 2022

Priority recommendations

  1. Improve the accessibility, efficiency and integrity of the vote-by-mail process


  • The number of vote-by-mail package requests in the 2020 Provincial General Election was unprecedented and vastly exceeded the number seen in any previous election.
    • In 2020, Elections BC received 724,279 package requests
    • In 2017, Elections BC received 11,268 package requests
  • Much of this increase can be attributed to changing voter behaviour due to the state of the pandemic and the provincial state of emergency that was in place during the 2020 election. However, voter surveys conducted towards the end of the campaign period indicated that up to 55% of respondents were at least somewhat likely to vote by mail in the next election, even without pandemic conditions.
  • It remains to be seen whether interest in voting by mail will remain high. The number of vote-by-mail packages requested for the 2022 Vancouver-Quilchena By-election was around twice the number of packages requested for the 2019 Nanaimo By-election. Regardless, a number of enhancements can be made to the current process to provide a higher level of service to voters.


  • Use the voter’s birthdate as a shared secret to confirm the voter’s identity on their vote-by-mail package, instead of a witness signature. This is a best practice used in B.C. during vote-by-mail referenda, and in many other jurisdictions. It increases accessibility, as providing a witnesses’ signature can be a barrier for some voters, and it is also verifiable against the voters list.
  • Authorize the Chief Electoral Officer to specify how voters must prove their identity and residential address when registering to vote in conjunction with voting by mail. This will allow the Chief Electoral Officer to authorize forms of digital identity verification, and remove the need to provide physical photocopies of ID in a vote-by-mail package.
  • Allow voters to return their vote-by-mail package in person to any voting place, and authorize the Chief Electoral Officer to establish additional in-person drop-off locations via regulation (such as 24-hour drop-boxes).
  • Establish a correction process for vote-by-mail packages, so that voters can correct their package if they make a mistake completing it.
  1. Update the criteria for adjudicating ballots to address recent trends


  • Elections BC accepts or rejects ballots according to the provisions of the Election Act.
  • Unless required to be rejected by the Act, a voter’s intent is key when interpreting ballots. For example, a write-in ballot on which the voter has misspelled the candidate or party name is not rejected as long as the voter’s intention to vote for a candidate in their electoral district is clear.
  • In modern election campaigns party leaders have increasingly become synonymous with their party and its campaign.
  • Write-in ballots are used at voting opportunities where ordinary ballots are not available (ordinary ballots list the candidates and their party, if any). For example, write-in ballots are used in vote-by-mail packages issued before candidate nominations close.
  • While voters do not directly vote for a party leader in B.C.’s Westminster-style parliamentary system, many voters think that they are voting for a party leader when they cast their ballot. The intent of a voter who writes the name of a party leader on a write-in ballot is clear, even if the leader is not a candidate in the voter’s electoral district.
  • Currently, write-in ballots marked with the name of a political party leader are accepted only if the leader is a candidate in the voter’s electoral district.
  • Write-in ballots marked with the name of a party leader who is not a candidate in the voter’s district are rejected.


Update the criteria for ballot adjudication so that:

  • writing the name of a political party leader on the ballot should be considered equivalent to writing a political party name, and therefore counted towards the party’s candidate in that district.
  • writing the name of a candidate in a different electoral district, other than a party leader, on the ballot should result in that ballot being rejected.

Additional technical recommendations

In addition to the priority recommendations outlined above, a number of technical issues were identified during the 2020 election that legislative change could remedy. These technical recommendations fall under the categories of administration, accessibility, transparency, enforcement, and service. Technical recommendations begin on page 9 of the report.