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Elections Canada considering 2-day voting period if snap election called

Voters enter the polling station at St. Luigi Catholic School during election day in Toronto on Oct. 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Elections Canada says a snap federal election in the fall could involve a two-day voting period rather than the usual one day polling.

The agency says it is developing a new operational approach in order to be able to deliver an election in the midst of a global pandemic.

Among the changes being considered is having a two-day weekend polling period instead of the single day polling on Monday, which is currently set out in the Canada Elections Act. Such a change, though, would require an act of Parliament.

Other measures aimed at making voting more accessible would include greater flexibility for returning officers to safely serve electors in long-term care facilities by increasing the number of voting days and accepting mail-in ballots sent before the deadline at least one day after the weekend polling period ends.

Research conducted by Elections Canada as to which method Canadians prefer to cast their ballot in the context of a pandemic found 57 per cent would opt for in-person voting while almost 22 per cent indicated a preference for mail-in balloting.

Elections Canada says it will not consider internet voting, saying that would require “significant planning and testing” which is not available in such a short period of time if a snap election were to be called.

Changes and measures the agency is working to implement that don’t require Parliamentary approval include:

  • Implementing physical distancing and other public health guidelines at polling places and local Elections Canada offices.
  • Procuring masks and single-use pencils to be provided to electors should they be necessary. Electors will also have the option to bring their own mask or pen/pencil.
  • Changing the agency’s model of operations to reduce the number of workers needed and, thus, facilitate physical distancing.
  • Increasing the capacity of the existing vote-by-mail system to meet a potential increase in demand for this service. An increased volume of mail-in ballots could delay the release of election results.
  • Removing the Vote on Campus services, as most colleges and universities are primarily delivering programs online.
  • Expanding virtual training for electoral workers in order to limit the number of in-person interactions.

 

“If an election were to take place before all the measures outlined above are fully implemented or in the absence of legislative changes, Elections Canada would focus on implementing physical distancing and other public health guidelines at polling places and local Elections Canada offices, including providing protective equipment for poll workers and office workers,” the agency says.

The Chief Electoral Officer also hinted that if it becomes impracticable to administer the election in one or several electoral districts, they would recommend that the election writ be withdrawn – something that has never been done in the agency’s history.