New Brunswick

N.B. votes: 166,543 cast ballot on and before election day

Polls closed across New Brunswick at 8 p.m. Monday for municipal elections, with 166,543 people turning out to vote either on election day, in advanced polling, at their returning office or by mail.

Election results for municipal councils and regional health authority boards won't be released until May 25

The New Brunswick municipal election is Monday. But it will be two weeks before results are released. (Radio-Canada)

Polls across New Brunswick came to a close at 8 p.m. on Monday, bringing the total number of people who voted in person in the elections to 157,315.

That figure includes 86,609 people who voted on election day, along with 70,706 people who voted in advance or at their returning office for municipal elections, elections for regional health authority board members or district education council members, said Paul Harpelle, Elections NB spokesperson.

Meanwhile, 9,228 people requested forms to mail in their ballot, he said.

The final tally of 166,543 — assuming that everyone who requested a mail ballot used theirs — falls short of the 2016 election's turnout of 187,914. However, Harpelle noted eligible voters in the Edmundston and Madawaska region still have to cast their ballots later this month.

There are about 20,000 eligible voters in that region, Harpelle said.

"It would not be a surprise if we don't see exactly the same numbers of participation we saw five years ago. It's a different time with the pandemic," Harpelle said.

"Also, even compared to the last provincial election, which took place during a pandemic, we have the, you know, the arrival of the variants, which I think would have an impact on people's, you know, comfort level in voting."

A wait for winners

Although polls closed in most parts of the province at 8 p.m. AT, voters will still have to wait another 15 days to find out who actually won.

That's because elections in the Edmundston and Madawaska regions were postponed until May 25, which will be the same day all results from other regions get posted.

Some candidates aren't too pleased about the more than two-week wait for results, said Kim Poffenroth, New Brunswick's chief electoral officer. 

"Many have demanded that the results be released and we've explained that that's not legally possible," he said.

Poffenroth said Elections New Brunswick can't release results until everyone in the province has had the opportunity to vote. 

Kim Poffenroth, New Brunswick's chief electoral officer, says some candidates have called to complain about waiting two weeks for election results. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

"I sympathize and I understand people's frustration," she said. "Unfortunately the realities of this election do not make that possible."

Election results have also been halted because district education council and regional health authority voting overlaps in areas that were both in and out of lockdown.

"You don't release results for a contest when voters can still vote in that contest." 

'A unique situation'

In March, the provincial government passed legislation for the first time to allow the suspension of nominations and voting in a particular zone in the event of a lockdown.

"This is a very unique situation," said Poffenroth.

Even if results could legally be released earlier, they would only be preliminary because additional votes could come in and impact the outcome of the election.

"These contests in municipal elections tend to have very close results, where one or two votes could make the difference in who's elected," she said.

In the meantime, electors in the Edmundston and Madawaska regions can vote at a returning office until May 25. 

Poffenroth uses the example of a student from Campbellton who is attending community college in Edmundston. 

"They're entitled to vote for the contest in Campbellton for mayor and councillor, but they've been under lockdown in Edmundston," she said.

Theoretically, a voter from another region could vote in those regions before May 25, but Poffenroth said it goes against Public Health guidelines.

All regions of New Brunswick outside of those that were most recently under lockdown in Zone 4 are still scheduled to have elections on May 10.

Who's in charge?

Under New Brunswick's Local Governance Act, the current municipal council remains in place until the first meeting of the new council.

Until then, ballots and tabulation machines will be transferred to a facility for two weeks in Fredericton that's under 24-hour surveillance. 

"We're not releasing the exact location for security reasons," she said.

Results are typically counted at local polling stations and results are transmitted from there.

"Obviously we can't leave ballots and tabulation machines at polling stations," she said. 

The more than 1,000 candidates across the province will be able to watch results coming in, which will be livestreamed on the Elections New Brunswick website on May 25. 

"With the livestreaming, it will actually be even more transparent," she said. "Any New Brunswicker can watch."

Elections New Brunswick won't release the actual results for the rest of the province until polls close in Edmundston.

"Unlike a normal election night, where the results sort of trickle out gradually, all of the results for the rest of the province should go in one lump batch shortly after 8 p.m."

With files from Aidan Cox

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