UBC economist says election result unlikely to shift after absentee ballots counted

Miranda GreerMay 13, 2017

On election night, well past midnight, after a seesaw battle in the riding of Courtenay-Comox, the NDP inched out the B.C. Liberals by nine votes.

There were about 51,000 absentee ballots cast in the 2013 election.

(B.C. NDP and B.C. Liberals) With the Liberals now set to take 43 of the 44 seats required for a majority government, a turnaround in Courtenay-Comox would have major consequences.

If the Liberals take Courtenay-Comox and Maple Ridge-Mission from the NDP, and retain the other three tight seats, it would have a comfortable majority of 45 seats.

Jim Benninger knows that a lot of people think the difference between a Liberal majority or minority government in British Columbia is resting on his shoulders.

Those were three of the four ridings that could realistically flip when over 176,000 absentee ballots are counted by May 24, according to Milligan's modelling.

"What we have in B.C.is we", he told Global News.

Milligan sees the NDP holding on to a number of ridings with close results - including Courtenay-Comox, which Ronna-Rae Leonard won by nine votes on Tuesday. The Greens, on the other hand, reflected the province-wide trend by nearly doubling their support - from 2,856 to 5,629 - for a third-place finish that came within less than 100 votes of the Liberals. Absentee votes that year favoured the Liberals by 121 votes.

This riding did not exist in 2013, so it's impossible to look to the last election for any clues to how likely the Liberals are to hang onto it.

The Liberals held this riding by 268 votes, but how absentee ballots will affect that result is anyone's guess.

"And what I found was about 60 per cent of the time, things just stay kind of like what they are, 43 seats for the Liberals, 41 for the NDP", says Milligan. In 2013, absentee votes were nearly exactly equal: 898 for the Liberals and 895 for the NDP. This year, however, the riding was much closer than most pundits expected and there are also more absentee ballots. A previous version of the story had the Liberal lead at 170 votes.

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