Some mail-in ballots sent out too late to be counted in N.B. election
'We know they arrived too late for people to get them back in time,' official says
New Brunswick's chief electoral officer has told a House of Commons committee she knew some mail-in ballots were sent out too late for them to be returned in time to be counted in September's provincial election.
Kim Poffenroth made the statement Tuesday when answering a question about the length of elections. In New Brunswick, the snap election was held 28 days after it was called, not enough time, she said, to deal with the increased demand for mail-in ballots because of COVID-19.
She didn't have a number, but said Elections New Brunswick knew some mail-in ballots reached voters too late.
"We know they arrived too late for people to get them back in time," she told the committee on procedure and House affairs.
Poffenroth said getting the ballot requests, processing them, sending out the ballots and getting them back in a 28-day period proved challenging.
"I do know — and the only word I can come up with is unfortunate, which I think is an understatement when it come to one's franchise — the importance of the vote."
Exactly how many mail-in ballots were received during the election isn't yet known because they were counted with the special ballots sent to long-term care homes.
Poffenroth estimated there were 13,000 mail-in ballots, but they include 7,000 sent to long-term care homes.
"In the interest of full disclosure it's not a precise number because our mail-in ballots, when they're counted, are counted with all other special voting opportunities."
Poffenroth told the committee the numbers came from returning officers going through their records and they aren't exact.
Poffenroth and Prince Edward Island electoral officer Tim Garrity both appeared before the committee via Zoom to answer questions about holding elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The committee is holding hearings and meetings about the conduct of a federal election during the pandemic. Questions ranged from how many extra staff had to be hired, additional costs, advanced polls, and voting by special ballots.
New Brunswick was the first province in Canada to hold a provincial election during the pandemic.
Prince Edward Island has a provincial byelection Nov. 2.
Previously, Poffenroth has said changes are needed to make mail-in ballots easier to manage. The increase in requests was substantial with returning offices reporting they had received hundreds.
She had said legislation for mail-in balloting was based on traditional use, and the system wasn't designed to handle the increased volume this time.
"So that's something we'll have to look at for future elections, as to what legislative changes will be required," Poffenroth said at the time.