Mail-in voting applications close on September 14. Here's how to get your ballot.

Amidst the spike in COVID-19 cases across BC and nationwide driven by the Delta variant, several million Canadians will be voting in the upcoming federal election by mail.

It’s a voting option that is new to many, and The Ubyssey has you covered on how to do it, and what it might mean for the election as a whole.

If you’re an eligible voter, you will first need to apply for a special ballot online on the Elections Canada page and provide your name, birthday, contact information, home address and preferred mailing address. Proof of ID is also required.

Alternatively, you may apply in person at an Elections Canada office. Whether you are applying for a ballot online or in person, ensure your application is completed by the September 14 deadline.

Once you receive your special voting kit, expect the ballot to look different from the one you would see at a polling station. Instead of having a list of candidates to choose from, your ballot will have a blank space for you to write the full name of the candidate you are voting for. If you don’t know the candidates in your riding, you can enter your postal code on the Voter Information Service website.

Before casting your special ballot into the mailbox, seal it inside the envelopes provided in your voting kit, following the deadline and instructions that are listed. The outermost envelope will be pre-addressed.

How will mail-in voting affect the election?

The timeline of results in individual ridings, and ultimately the announcement of which party has won the election, will be different from previous years. According to UBC political science professor Dr. Richard Johnston, with “mail-in ballots being counted the day after Election Day … the wait for final results will take days, if not longer.”

Johnston attributes the delay to the “more complicated procedures that mail-in ballots require before they can be counted,” which includes the “opening and verification of outside and inside envelopes.”

Johnston cited last year’s BC provincial and US presidential elections — which both heavily relied on mail-in voting — when asked about the reliability of the partial results released on Election Night.

“The systematic difference in political orientation between mail-in voters and in-person voters that was observed in both the US and BC elections means that the result in some ridings will flip once the tally of mail-in votes is combined with the tally of in-person votes,” he said.

Although mail-in voting presents general security concerns and questions exist about the ability of the elderly or those in abusive relationships to vote freely, Johnston doesn’t see electoral fraud as a threat, pointing to Canada’s “high standard of … non-partisanship in election administration.”

Notably, mail-in voting will make this election, and possibly future elections, more accessible than ever.

“Mail-in voting . . . [has] lowered the cost to voters of turning out … in the sense of the time involved and the physical effort,” Johnston said.

This article is part of The Ubyssey's 2021 federal election coverage. To read more, click here.