New Brunswick

Snap election means some votes won't count, says NB man working in Ontario

A New Brunswick voter living in another province says it’s unlikely his vote will count this election.

Jamal Instrum says he's waited several weeks for his family's special ballots to show up

Jamal Instrum is a New Brunswicker working in Ontario. He doubts that his vote, or votes by members of his family, will count due to delays in mail and the short election period. (CBC)

A New Brunswick voter living in another province believes his vote will not count this election. 

Jamal Instrum is working in Ontario, but he said it's taken weeks for his family's special ballots to arrive. He said that even if the ballots arrived today, Elections NB has already told him it's unlikely they'll get back to New Brunswick in time to be counted. 

"I have no confidence in this election, whatsoever," said Instrum. 

Instrum said he was in the process of helping his daughter register as a voter when Premier Blaine Higgs called the snap election. Two days later, he began the process to have special ballots sent to him and his family to vote in their home riding of Fredericton-South. 

 As of Sept. 8, three weeks later, the family has yet to receive their ballots. 

Instrum said multiple calls to Elections NB inquiring about those ballots have led him to believe his family's vote won't be counted on election day. 

"If it's already not in the mail, it probably won't make it in time," said Instrum, who said election workers doubt that even votes mailed locally today won't arrive in time. 

"They said if you put it in the mail today, in Fredericton, it won't make it in time to be counted," said Instrum. 

He said Elections NB staff have suggested his best chance to vote is to immediately fill out those ballots when they arrive, and then pay to priority mail them to a friend who can then hand deliver them to a returning office before the 8 p.m. Monday deadline.

System not equipped 

Instrum blames several issues for his vote not counting, including slow mail service and poor communication of deadlines from Elections NB. But he said his chief concern is that the short turnaround that comes with a snap-election call severely limits or even eliminates voters living outside the province. 

"They have no chance," said Instrum.  

"I don't think it's planned," he said. "I just think amazingly disorganized and not taking into account how long things take to move around." 

Instrum would like to see a secure online portal created to accommodate voters living outside of the province instead of having to rely on the mail service. 

Elections NB Response 

Instrum has a point, according to the province's chief electoral officer. 

"It is a real potential issue for people," said Kim Poffenroth, "The realities of the mail and the short election period."

Poffenroth stressed that ballots aren't sent out with the regular mail, but sent by courier instead. But she said there's only so much that can be done in the short window afforded by a snap election.

"With the legislation allowing for a 28-day election period, that's simply the time period we're dealing with," said Poffenroth.  

Chief electoral officer Kim Poffenroth says the time it takes for ballots to circulate in the mail, combined with the short election period does create an issue for those attempting to vote from outside the province. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

She said special ballots can't be sent out before an election call is made, and even if special ballots are postmarked within the election period it doesn't matter.  If the ballots are not received by a returning officer by 8 p,m. on election day, they are not counted.

COVID complications 

To compound the issue, this year's election is seeing a massive increase in requests for mail-in ballots, even from within the province, due to COVID-19. 

"Significantly more than double," said Poffenroth. "I wouldn't be surprised if we're looking at a ten-fold, or more increase in requests for mail-in ballots."  

Poffenroth said actual numbers won't be available until after the election. At that point, each returning officer will submit their reports on issues they encountered, including complaints like Instrum's. Only then, she said, will Elections NB be able to start working on making things smoother for the next election.

Instrum has himself made waves in provincial politics in the days leading up to the last provincial election. He ran afoul of Progressive Conservative party officials and was accused of making plans to encourage nomination challenges to several PC MLAs.

About the Author

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.

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