The B.C. government is moving ahead with changes to how provincial elections are conducted, including the registration of future voters starting at age 16.
Attorney General David Eby introduced changes to the B.C.’s election law Thursday, based on recommendations from B.C.’s Chief Electoral Officer, Anton Boegman. Starting voter registration at 16, as is already done for federal voters’ lists, is a way to increase the registration rate for young voters, Eby told the legislature. The voting age remains at 18.
Boegman welcomed the change, which would be in effect for the next scheduled election in October 2021.
“Youth between the ages of 18-24 participate in B.C. provincial elections at a rate much lower than other age groups,” Boegman said. “Enabling 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote represents a significant opportunity to remove administrative barriers to their participation when they turn 18.”
The amendments also give access by provincial candidates and official representatives to strata and co-op apartment buildings, as they already have in rental properties. They can knock on doors and distribute campaign materials as they do with single-family homes and townhouses.
The changes also require unsuccessful nomination candidates for political parties to file financial disclosures with Elections B.C., as winning candidates have to do.
Other changes include introducing ballot scanners for B.C. elections, similar to the counting machines used in many local government elections. Paper ballots will still be marked, but the scanners allow faster counting.
For people voting outside their home constituency, ballot printers will be available so they don’t have to use a mail-in ballot that arrives later where they would normally vote. The scanners read the ballot and record it automatically for the home constituency, making election-night results more complete.
For snap elections that occur when a minority government is defeated in a confidence vote, the changes allow an extension of the formal voting period of four to 10 days, to make sure the final election day is always on a Saturday.
The amendments also give Elections B.C. access to provincial records to help keep address changes and other information up to date on the voters’ list.