Elections P.E.I. proposes amendment to give more time for mail-in ballots to arrive

·2 min read

Elections P.E.I. is proposing amendments to the Election Act to give more time for mail-in ballots to be received following feedback after the District 10 byelection this week.

Several complaints were made about mail-in ballots not reaching voters in time.

That left those people unable to vote in the byelection because once you apply to vote by mail, you aren't allowed to vote in person.

"We sent out 235 mail-in ballot packages and we received back 212. So we had around a 90 per cent return rate, which is quite good," said Tim Garrity, chief electoral officer for Elections P.E.I.

Garrity said in advance of the byelection, Elections P.E.I. did trial tests to see how long it would take for the letters to be delivered to voters and back.

Isabella Zavarise/CBC
Isabella Zavarise/CBC

Once the byelection was called, the ballots were mailed out through Canada Post on Oct. 20, which should have allowed enough time for them to be returned by Nov. 2.

"We did have some households where multiple people applied. Some people received their ballots and some people didn't but they were all mailed out at the very same time, at the very same post office," Garrity said.

"I hand delivered them myself so as to why they didn't get there, it's very challenging."

Timing is everything

In a written statement from Canada Post, officials said the operational team in Charlottetown "confirmed there are no delays with letter-mail delivery within the city." It also said mail is typically delivered locally within two days.

Garrity said the proposed amendments to the Election Act would move the nomination due date forward a week. This would allow the ballots to be printed up and sent out a week earlier.

"This amendment has been kind of in the books for us for a little while because we felt that it just — it gave that time back to the electors and we need to be fair," Garrity said.

"We need to be fair to the candidates that they have enough time to get their names in to us to be registered to run for an election, but we also need to be fair to the electors so we thought that would balance it out a little bit more."

Isabella Zavarise/CBC
Isabella Zavarise/CBC

Garrity said this should make things smoother during a general election, especially with more people choosing the mail-in ballot option during the pandemic.

He said in the 2019 general election, just over 640 mail-in ballot applications were received for all 27 districts combined. There were 235 applications for the District 10 byelection alone.

He said he hopes the amendments can be brought forward in the next sitting of the legislature.

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