Election officials expect most postal votes to be counted by Wednesday

Sep 21 2021, 3:56 am

The final results of the federal election may not be known until Wednesday, election officials have warned, because of almost one million mail-in ballots that will not be opened until

A clutch of close-run ridings, where mail-in ballots could prove crucial to the result, may have to wait days for a winner to be declared.

In the New Brunswick riding of Fredericton, where more than 3,300 voters sent in mail ballots, a close fight between Jenica Atwin —  the Liberal candidate who crossed the floor of the House of Commons from the Greens — and the Conservatives’ Andrea Johnson may
ultimately be decided by postal votes.

In Edmonton Centre, where almost 3,000 mail ballots will be opened on Tuesday, the close result could also rest on people who voted by post. For the Quebec riding of Trois-Rivieres, only a handful of votes could decide who wins, with over 2,500 mail ballots set to be opened on Tuesday morning.

The riding of Charleswood_St. James_Assiniboia_Headingley in Manitoba is another close race, with more than 3,480 mail ballots still to be counted. In Vancouver Granville, where more than 5,700 people have returned mail-in ballots, a close race could be determined by postal votes.

Elections Canada expects “the vast majority” of mail-in ballots to be counted by Wednesday. But in some remote ridings and those with thousands of mail ballots, the result may not be known until Friday.

A record number of people have voted by mail in this election, some because of fears of voting in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local elections agents will begin opening postal ballots on Tuesday morning. Before they are counted, ballots will be verified by local voting officials. They check to ensure voters have not sent in multiple ballots or have already voted in person at a polling station. Officials also verify voters’ signatures.

British Columbia has the greatest number of mail-in ballots, many of them on Vancouver Island. In the Victoria riding, more than 12,600 people applied to vote by mail — the most in Canada —  followed by Saanich_Gulf Islands, where more than 10,700 people
applied for postal votes.

The Courtenay-Alberni riding, which includes parts of Nanaimo, B.C., had 9,870 voting kits issued. More than 9,500 voters in the nearby B.C. riding of North Island-Powell River applied for postal ballots. In Nanaimo-Ladysmith, more than 8,800 voters registered to
vote by mail, while in Esquimalt_Saanich_Sooke, more than 8,700 voters applied for mail-in ballots.

Political scientists say voters will need to be patient in some close-run ridings and prepare for delayed final results.

Melanee Thomas, associate professor in the department of political science at University of Calgary, said that although mail ballots could influence results in close seats, they would unlikely determine the overall election result.

“Folks need to be patient. We are not going to have a clear result in some places until these mail ballots are counted,” she said. “I don’t think this is going to influence the overall result
or make a difference to whether there is a Liberal minority government.

Another close electoral battle is in the Yukon, which returns a single MP. At the last election, the Liberals fought off the Tories by only 153 votes. This time, with a tight three-way battle between the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP, more than 1,800 voters have
cast their vote by mail in the riding.

At Elections Canada’s distribution centre in Ottawa on Monday evening, workers were busy counting around 200,000 special ballots that had been sent to Ottawa. The votes from expatriates, people voting outside their ridings, Canadian Forces, as well as inmates in
prisons throughout the country were already being tallied by election workers before polls closed.

Election officials began counting the ballots sent to Ottawa — which unlike most mail-in ballots are not counted in local ridings —  10 days ago. By 8.40 p.m. Monday, they had counted 120,000 ballots at the vast warehouse where, once the election is over, every ballot
cast in the country will be stored for 10 years.

Natasha Gauthier, spokeswoman for Elections Canada, said that, although “90-95 per cent of results will be in” on Monday night, local ridings will not open the one million mail-in ballots returned across the country until Tuesday morning.

Voters in ridings where results have yet to be declared will be able to track how many mail-in ballots have been counted starting Tuesday, she added.

“You could have a riding where the race is tight,” Gauthier said Monday. “Starting tomorrow, you can look up your riding and see what percentage of ballots have been counted. At the end of each counting shift they will be updated.”

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