Voting in the May 9 provincial election will include a new element this year, something people will see when they receive their voting cards in the mail – barcodes.
Previous provincial elections saw voters signing in by hand at the polls, but this year it will be slightly different.
“Your voting card will have a barcode, and we can actually scan you right in,” explained Dennis Lissimore, the district electoral officer for the Skeena riding.
“It will speed things up so hopefully we won’t have the lineups we’ve had before.”
Deputy electoral officer Brian Lindenbach agreed, noting that it’s quite a significant shift.
“All elections up until this one have been completely mechanical, now the whole thing is electronic,” he said.
Voters armed with their ID and voting cards will be scanned in when they first arrive at their voting locations, and then proceed to their assigned polling station.
And there’s another shift this year which may shorten voting lineups on election day: the advance polling period is being extended to include two weekends.
Advance polls will be open on the weekend of April 29 and 30 and then again from May 3 to 6, with one location in Terrace, one in Kitimat and one in New Aiyansh in the Nass Valley.
“We anticipate the advance poll being very busy,” said Lissimore, adding that officials estimate 40 per cent of people will vote at the advance locations.
That change, combined with an increased number of voters allowed at polling stations, from 400 to 600, means that the number of polling stations has dropped significantly.
In the 2013 provincial election, there were 71 polling stations at the locations throughout the riding, but this year there will be 41.
That also means reducing the number of people that Elections BC has hired for the election here – down about one-third from 2013 to 220 people working this year.
Most of those people will be at the 15 polling locations in the Skeena riding, overseeing a total of 41 ballot boxes.
In mid-March, eight Elections BC employees did door-to-door registration of voters at new subdivisions and at low cost housing areas with high resident turnover.
That process was also significantly simplified this year by using computer tablets for the first time.
In the last provincial election in 2013, there were 21,164 registered voters in the Skeena region, and 11,756 people voted.
That’s a total of 55.5 per cent of people who voted, and Lissimore is hoping for an increase.
“We’d like to see it well over 60 per cent,” he said.