Canadians set new record at advance polls, hundreds of thousands of votes expected to arrive by mail

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People voting by mail will receive a special ballot voting kit, on which they have to write in the name of their chosen candidate. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)
People voting by mail will receive a special ballot voting kit, on which they have to write in the name of their chosen candidate. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)

A record number of Canadians voted in advance polls and hundreds of thousands of ballots are expected to arrive by mail as we enter the final week of this unusual pandemic election.

According to Elections Canada, nearly 5.8 million Canadians voted over the four days of advance polling that ended on Monday.

That represents an increase of about 18 per cent over the nearly 4.9 million Canadians who voted in advance polls during the 2019 election, which set the previous record for federal elections.

"I want to thank the electors who took advantage of advance polls for their patience and their help in making this a safe experience for everyone," Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault said in a news release.

Elections Canada is bracing for a flood of mail-in ballots this week as voters look for alternative voting methods during the pandemic. Even so, the number of Canadians voting by mail is likely to fall well short of initial predictions.

WATCH | Record number of Canadians vote in advance polls:

Slightly more than 1.2 million Canadians requested special voting kits, which can be mailed. The deadline to request those kits has now passed.

Elections Canada has said it expects "most" of those kits will be submitted by mail this year, though an exact figure will not be available until after election day.

Elections Canada initially predicted that between two and three million Canadians would vote by mail this year, up from about 50,000 during the 2019 election.

Special ballot voting kits do not include a list of candidates — voters must instead write the name of their chosen candidate on the ballot.

Special ballots can also be dropped off at Elections Canada offices. They are also used for voting at places such as hospitals and prisons.

Voters who request mail-in kits are also not permitted to vote in-person during advance polls or on election day, which is next Monday, Sept. 20.

Delays expected due to mail-in ballots

Although the number of requests fell well below the expected demand, mail-in ballots are still expected to make the 2021 election an unusual one, since the results in some close races could be delayed by several days.

Perrault has warned that election officials will not begin counting mail-in ballots until Sept. 21 in order to ensure that all ballots received by the cutoff are tallied.

Perrault has said it could take two to five days to complete the count of mail-in ballots, which could prevent close races from being called until that count is complete.

Voters in Victoria have requested 11,288 special ballots as of Sept. 13, the most of any electoral district in Canada. The riding was decided by just 2,382 votes in 2019; a similarly close race could be among those delayed this time while mail-in ballots are counted.

In the 2019 election, nine ridings were decided by a margin of 500 or fewer votes.

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