Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds in British Columbia to pre-register on the provincial voters list is one of several recommendations from the chief electoral officer now being considered by the legislature.
Keith Archer says in a report to the legislature that teens who register in advance would automatically be added to the voters list when they turn 18, and that would have a positive effect on voter turnout.
Mr. Archer also urges legislators to consider allowing greater access to personal information so electoral officials can ensure the voters list is kept up to date.
The report does not seek an end to paper ballots, but recommends the use of electronic poll books and ballot tabulators to make voting day more efficient as ballots are handed out and collected.
Attorney-General David Eby says his ministry welcomes Elections BC’s recommendations “with great interest.”
“I think it’s a great recommendation,” he said of the call to pre-register underage but otherwise qualified electors on the voters list.
“Certainly it is forming the basis of discussion within government about ways we can ensure the younger voters get out there,” he said.
The proposals would require changes to electoral legislation and Mr. Eby said he hopes all the ideas in the report can be addressed as quickly as possible.
Mr. Archer’s report also examines the length of the election calendar, noting the current 29-day campaign is fine for fixed-date general campaigns, but inadequate for on-demand or so-called “snap” elections.
Legislators should consider increasing the campaign period in B.C. by adding four to 10 days at the beginning of the election calendar for on-demand elections, meaning voting day would fall on a Saturday, 32 to 38 days after the writs are issued, Mr. Archer said in his report.
The extra time would apply in situations such as defeat of a government in a non-confidence vote, and Mr. Archer said that could reduce costs linked to last-minute rentals and rushed shipments of supplies and also give candidates more time to correctly file their nomination papers.
British Columbia is mulling a referendum on electoral reform, possibly before the end of the year. Mr. Archer’s report proposes a new administrative model for voting and counting that could be implemented under any system voters might approve.
The model presented in his report would use a real-time, electronic provincial list to follow and strike off voters as they cast their ballots, removing the potential for fraud by voters or election officials, while allowing voters to make their choice at any polling place in B.C.
The model would also allow for the counting of absentee ballots on election night instead of 13 days later, as required by current legislation, making final results available within hours of election night.
Mr. Archer recommended establishing a legislative committee to work towards implementing the proposed administrative model over the next three to six years.