A record-breaking number of New Brunswick residents have voted in advance polls ahead of next week's provincial election, according to figures from Elections New Brunswick.
More than 133,000 people voted in the two days of advance polls, up from about 88,000 in 2018.
Joanna Everitt, a political science professor at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, said the rise in advance votes is likely an indication that people are more comfortable voting early rather than waiting in long lines on election day, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I don't think it's any real indication of a change in interest or concern about the election," Everitt said. "It's just a desire to make sure that people are able to vote in a safe way."
Everitt said the use of early polling has increased across the country in the last few years.
"I think it's a combination of two things. The trend that's been going on nationwide, but also the unique situation that we have here in New Brunswick having [an] election during the COVID-19 pandemic."
New Brunswick is the first province in Canada to head to the polls since the virus hit in mid-March.
Everitt said Elections NB has also encouraged people to vote early to help prevent the potential spread of the virus, which likely increased turnout.
On just the first day of advance polling, 63,000 residents cast their ballots which was up from 43,500 in 2018.
In the Shediac Bay-Dieppe riding — the riding that saw former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Robert Gauvin switch to the Liberal Party — more than 4,000 residents cast their ballots in advance this year.
Everitt said high turnouts at advance polls is a good indication that people are confident in who they're going to vote for.
"It typically is people who are quite clear about who they're going to vote for, who get out to vote at advance polls," she said.
"Those who are still undecided — in the last poll I saw, it showed that there were a number of undecided voters — often will wait to the last minute on election day to make their decision."
In total, about 382,000 electors voted in the 2018 provincial election.