With a Local Government Election coming up on Saturday, October 15, 2022, it’s a good idea to brush up on how to mark your ballot so your vote counts. As it turns out, according to Elections BC (Section 123 of the Election Act), there are quite honestly more ways to “skin a cat” than the traditional method. That is to say, you don’t have to use an “X” to indicate who you are voting for.
Before I break down what is and isn’t acceptable, I have a little story for you. Growing up in Kelowna in the 1970s, election time was an interesting period. I remember seeing huge lawn signs in and around my neighbourhood with checkmarks in the circle next to a candidate’s name to entice you to remember to mimic the same action when you went to vote.
I used to laugh at those signs thinking that anyone who used a checkmark instead of an “X” was making a huge mistake. It made me wonder why candidates were confusing voters with such tactics. Of course, at the time, I had no idea that you could use an “X” or a checkmark and your vote would still count.
But that’s not all.
You can mark your ballot in one of several ways and the vote will count. That’s because Elections BC has a clear definition of what fits and what doesn’t. If the marking you left behind in the circle behind a candidate’s name clearly shows intent, then it counts as a legal, correct vote. That sort of opens the landscape a bit, doesn’t it? Well, let’s go through some scenarios, shall we?
Valid Markings That Will Be Accepted
Okay, here’s a short list of what you can do to mark your ballot on October 15th and still get your vote counted:
An “X” - this is the classic. We all started probably with using an “X” because we think about the old saying that “X marks the spot.” I still use an “X” partly because I’m a bit of an old-school voter, and partly because if I use something else, I’ll worry that my ballot won’t be accepted. It just doesn't feel right to me to not use an "X."
A checkmark - this is the runner-up to the classic “X” and is as valid as the “X” in voting.
Writing the word ‘YES’ in the voting space - It shows intent. So it counts.
A circle inside the circle that makes the voting space - again, voter intention is clear.
A star/asterisk - Remember, if voter intention is obvious, the marking is accepted.
A partial checkmark - voter intention is still clear.
Here’s A Couple Of Wildcards
Alright. So, what if you go into the voting booth and you mark one voting space with an “X” and then realize that the person you wanted to vote for was someone else, and you stroke out your first “X” and leave a second? If the voter intent is clear, it would be accepted.
How about if you use either an “X” or a checkmark, but only part of it is visible in the white voting circle on the ballot? It would still demonstrate voter intent.
Rejected Markings That Will Get Your Ballot Tossed Aside
Now the fun part. Believe it or not, there are voters out there who will take advantage of the secret ballot process and mark their ballots in some unusual ways. All of the ones listed below will spoil your ballot which is a nice way of saying your vote doesn’t count.
More checkmarks or “X”s than required, or none at all - voter intent unclear so it is rejected.
One “X” that is stroked out, but not replaced with another one next to a different candidate’s name - this will be rejected.
A mixture of “X”s and other marks - voter intention is not clear.
Dots and question marks filling each voting space - again, voter intention is not obvious.
Your initials in the voting area - although the voter intention may be clear here, the issue now is that the voter may be identifiable from their initials. That removes the secret ballot component so this vote will be rejected.
You sign your name in the voting area - see “Your initials in the voting area.”
So, to wrap this up, “X” does not always mark the spot. The determining factor, according to Section 123 of the Election Act as enforced by Elections BC is voter intent. If you mark your ballot with a happy face, as long as it appears next to a voter's name and you haven’t given a smiley face to all names on the ballot, you should be golden.
On Saturday, October 15, 2022, please remember to vote for your local Town Council. It doesn’t matter if you use an “X”, checkmark, or asterisk, just try to remember to put one of those markings in the voter space behind my name, George Elliott. Thank you.
My name is George Elliott. I have been in the Media Industry since 1978. I spent 23 years in Broadcasting and worked in a total of six different radio stations located in southern British Columbia Canada during my career. In 2000 I switched gears and moved into the Print Media Industry at a small town, local weekly community newspaper. In 2004 I bought the paper and operated it with my wife, Brenda until July 2016 when we closed it. I launched a freelance web content and article writing business from my home in January 2014.