Nfld. & Labrador

Canada Post says it can handle N.L. ballot boom, but this voter says more clarity needed

With the provincial election now happening only by mail, Canada Post's union says there are enough workers on hand to make sure ballots make it to Elections NL headquarters by March 5.

Voter relieved to learn ballot received at Elections N.L., long after she posted it

Ghislaine Milord says she mailed her ballot on Feb. 5 and finally got a phone call from Elections NL almost two weeks later. (CBC)

Ghislaine Milord dropped off her ballot at the Canada Post outlet at Churchill Square in St. John's on Feb. 5, a week before the provincewide lockdown on Friday night that prompted Elections NL to restrict voting to mail-in ballots only.

Using the envelope's tracking number, Milord kept tabs on where her vote was going. Or rather, not going: according to that system, the ballot made it to Canada Post's sorting facility. For days, it wasn't where it ought to have been: Elections NL headquarters.

"I hope my vote will count, at some point," she told CBC News on Tuesday. 

On Wednesday afternoon, she got some good news: a call from Elections NL that the ballot had been received.

She was told by an Elections NL worker that if the post office receives them, the ballots will be sent to Elections NL.

"I told them to make it clear to people about this procedure so people do not think that their ballots are in transit when they actually have been received," she said via email to CBC News. 

Milord noted that she dropped her ballot into a mailbox not far from Elections NL headquarters, and expressed a worry for other voters whose ballots have farther to go.

"I'm concerned with some of the people who have way more distance, in terms of sending their votes," she said. 

Special ballots like these must be in to Elections NL by March 5. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Postal workers 'confident'

The delay in Milord's vote — or anyone else's — being delivered is a concern in an election where mail service will play a critical role, but a union representative with Canada Post says workers can handle the challenge.

Craig Dyer said he's been picking up mail-in ballots daily on his Mount Pearl routes, and they're normally delivered to Elections NL within a day or two.

Dyer, who is the chief shop steward of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in St. John's, said there are already extra temporary workers hired and overtime approved to deal with the increased mail from the surge in pandemic-related online shopping, and they can handle the election traffic.

"We're pretty confident we can get it done," said Dyer.

A spokesperson for Canada Post said its team is working closely with Elections NL on logistics and monitoring mailings.

"We are prepared to support this latest change by Elections Newfoundland and Labrador," said the spokesperson in an emailed statement. 

Craig Dyer says there is a small backlog of mail to be sorted in St. John's at the moment, but there are enough workers to deal with it. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

Dyer said ballots may take an extra day or two to arrive in St. John's from remote areas of Labrador. There is a backlog of mail in St. John's at the moment, due to recent weather delays, but workers are chipping at it and making sure ballots get to where they need to go, he said Tuesday.

"There is a heightened awareness amongst the workers that this is a very sensitive issue and people are doing their best."

Sorting machines at Canada Post's main plant on Kenmount Road can sort 36,000 pieces of mail an hour, he said, and the needed staff are on hand to run them.

"The only thing that may cause a hiccup is the weather," he said, noting that February typically has its fair share of stormy days.

Milford wonders why the election was called in the winter in the first place, given the weather.

"Especially February. Usually February is a big month. We have a lot of snow and things, and I think it could've waited a little bit," she said.

The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is now Friday, Feb. 19. All ballots are due back by March 5.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Mark Quinn and Patrick Butler

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