Last HST ballots collected for count

The fate of B.C.'s harmonized sales tax should be known by the end of August.

Elections BC staff process HST ballots received from voters. Officials say turnout has been 'steady.'

VICTORIA – The fate of B.C.’s harmonized sales tax should be known by the end of August.

Elections BC officials briefed reporters Thursday on the final collection and counting of ballots for the HST referendum.

Acting chief electoral officer Craig James said the target is to release results by the original date of Aug. 25, despite a strike and lockout at Canada Post that delayed distribution. If there is a large return rate from the three million ballot packages that were mailed out, the results could take a few days longer, James said.

All mailed envelopes received at the Canada Post collection warehouse in Vancouver by the referendum deadline of 4:30 p.m. Friday will be accepted for counting by Elections BC.

HST ballots should not be mailed on the last day, but can be dropped off until the deadline at any of the 60 Service BC centres around the province, or at one of five collection centres at malls around Metro Vancouver. Locations are listed here.

Elections BC will have 70 people working in two shifts to verify and count the ballots. Each one will be checked against the voter’s list, and a random selection of 6,000 voters will be phoned to confirm that they sent in their ballots.

Elections BC plans to release the turnout for B.C.’s second-ever mail-in ballot next week, along with details of how many requests for replacement ballots were received. More than 14,000 people registered to vote so they could take part.

James said delays in getting through to the Elections BC call centre were caused mainly by the fact that as many as half the callers were phoning to share their opinions about the HST. The call centre was to handle requests for people who didn’t receive their ballot package or needed a replacement.