Nfld. & Labrador

N.L.'s 'polls' finally close, as 10-week election draws to an end

Elections NL won't count any ballot kits received after 4 p.m. Thursday, as some last-minute voters hastened to drop off their envelopes at the agency's St. John's headquarters.

Last-minute votes being tallied, with results announced Saturday at noon NT

A last-minute voter drops their ballot off at Elections NL in St. John's on Thursday. (Josee Basque/Radio-Canada)

A weeks-long voting period for Newfoundland and Labrador's deeply troubled 51st general election has drawn to a close.

Any ballots received by Elections NL after 4 p.m. NT Thursday won't be counted. Voters had nearly six weeks to apply for, receive, fill out and mail back their ballot kits, after the electoral agency cancelled in-person voting that was scheduled for Feb. 13.

The electorate contended with shifting deadlines and accessibility issues throughout the unprecedented election format.

The agency previously told CBC News it estimated 120,000 requests for mail-in voting kits after it closed polling stations amid a coronavirus outbreak. In addition to the 68,259 votes received through advance polls and special ballots, that adds up to a maximum voter turnout of 51 per cent, which would still be the lowest in provincial history.

Yvonne Steiner left the actual mailing part of the process "kind of late," she said, interviewed outside Elections NL headquarters in St. John's as a steady stream of last-minute voters dropped their ballots into the mail slot beside the front entrance.

Although problems plagued the ad-hoc voting system this winter, Steiner says she didn't encounter any herself.

"I'm happy to have voted. You follow the instructions.… You'll be fine," she said. 

Yvonne Steiner felt a little lighter after dropping off her ballot at Elections NL headquarters Thursday. (Josee Basque/Radio-Canada)

Steiner says she followed the ups and downs of the 10-week election, and pointed to COVID-19 challenges as the biggest issue, in her books. 

She also didn't have a problem with timing of the election, called by Liberal Leader Andrew Furey in mid-January, prior to a second wave that gripped the metro area in February and led to the prolonged mail-in voting period.

Chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk has told CBC News a faction of ballot counters were handling the influx of mail, first marking down the voters' identities, then sorting the ballots by district, and finally tallying them.

Elections NL says it will announce the results of the vote at 12 p.m. NT Saturday.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Josee Basque

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