Voted early, then the candidate quit? Here's what happens to your ballot

·2 min read
A campaign image of Sidney Coles, posted to Facebook weeks before she resigned over online comments about Israel.  (Toronto-St Paul's/Facebook - image credit)
A campaign image of Sidney Coles, posted to Facebook weeks before she resigned over online comments about Israel. (Toronto-St Paul's/Facebook - image credit)

Imola Ilyes says she feels like she might as well have burned her ballot, or ripped it to shreds.

Ilyes, who lives in the Toronto-St Paul's riding, cast her vote for NDP candidate Sidney Coles via advance poll on Monday.

Less than two days later, it was confirmed Coles was out of the race over tweets that suggested Israel was somehow responsible for missing doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.

Coles is one of a number of candidates from several parties who have dropped out, or have been dumped, during this election — including another NDP candidate running in Nova Scotia, who also resigned this week over online comments.

"It doesn't count for anything now," Ilyes said of her vote. "Her campaign is finished."

As someone who was torn between voting Green and NDP, Ilyes says she's particularly disappointed over the lost opportunity for her riding to coalesce around one progressive candidate capable of taking on Liberal incumbent Carolyn Bennett.

"Unfortunately, to stand any chance of beating Carolyn Bennett, the progressive vote would have to be quite united. And a lot of people already voted for [Coles,] she said.

So what happens to all of those votes, cast for a candidate who is no longer in the running?

First of all — there are no do-overs, or chances to vote for someone else. For Ilyes and other early voters who backed Coles, what's done is done.

Elections Canada tells CBC Toronto that unless candidates withdraw by Aug. 30, their names will stay on the ballot through the election — even if they resign part-way through.

That means Coles's name will be on the ballot on election day next week as well, and people will be able to continue to vote for her.

The next question, then: what happens if she wins?

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

"Should a candidate who is confirmed (who wins) choose not to serve, they would notify the Speaker of the House of Commons, who would notify Elections Canada that a seat is vacant," said an Elections Canada spokesperson.

"When a byelection date is set, the Speaker would notify Elections Canada and we would conduct a byelection."

Elections Canada also says it's not its responsibility to communicate to voters that candidates have stepped aside, so there will be nothing on the ballot itself or inside the polling place to indicate Coles's decision.

CBC News asked the NDP what steps it would take to notify voters that Coles was not running, but the party did not respond to the question.

NDP Jagmeet Singh and the local riding association have both condemned her comments.

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