Nfld. & Labrador

Elections NL pushes back voting deadline again

Chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk said the new deadline has been set to March 25 at 4 p.m. NT. He won't be doing an interviews over the next few weeks while the ballot-counting is underway.

Voters now have until March 25 at 4 p.m. NT to get their ballots in

This special ballot envelope contains a mail-in ballot option for Elections Newfoundland and Labrador. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Elections NL is once again pushing back the deadline to return mail-in ballots in the provincial election.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk said "concerns have been raised over the timely return of ballots due to weather and transportation concerns," so voters in Newfoundland and Labrador now have until 4 p.m. NT on March 25.

"By setting this date we are enabling an extension for electors, while also maintaining our process for the special ballot count," Chaulk wrote. "Ballots received between now and March 25 will continue to be sorted into their respective ballot boxes and counted toward the end of the process."

Chaulk also said the new deadline will be "strictly enforced."

An Elections NL spokesperson said Wednesday that Chaulk will not be doing any interviews in the coming weeks as the ballot-counting continues.

Newfoundland and Labrador chief electoral officer Bruce Chaulk says the new deadline of March 25 will be 'strictly enforced.' (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

After the original Feb. 13 election day was postponed due a rapidly spreading COVID-19 outbreak, voters had until March 1 to get their mail-in ballots in. On Feb. 14, all in-person voting was suspended, and voters now had until March 5 to get their ballots in. Five days after that, the deadline was pushed again, and voters now had until this coming Friday to have their ballots postmarked. The new deadline is for when Elections NL must have received the ballot for it to be counted.

Chaulk's statement says the last voting kits were mailed to electors on March 3. Anyone who applied for a voting kit should receive it in the mail by Friday.

Chaulk is also asking voters not to call the Elections NL office to ask if their ballot has been received, as they are unable to address individual inquires and ballots are immediately sorted and sealed into ballot boxes when received.

CBC News contacted Elections NL Tuesday to request an interview with Chaulk.

Parties react

Speaking with CBC News following the announcement, NDP Leader Alison Coffin said the move to allow more time for ballots to be returned is a good thing. However, she said she still has concerns, especially for voters in Labrador.

"Unfortunately we still see some problems with that," she said. "[Candidates] have been looking at an extension to ensure that they could have it postmarked a little bit later, but this deadline doesn't allow for any weather-related delays at all. And I think that's going to be a little bit concerning."

"I think this is just one more example of this winter election being very, very badly timed," she added.

NDP Leader Alison Coffin said her party still has concerns for votes coming into St. John's from Labrador following the deadline being pushed back. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

In a statement issued by the Progressive Conservatives Tuesday night, Leader Ches Crosbie said the blame for the now Spring election falls on Liberal Leader Andrew Furey.

"Yet again, we are reminded of the fiasco Andrew Furey set in motion with this needless election call in the dead of winter, in the middle of a pandemic. It didn't have to be this way," the statement read. "The blame for this mess falls squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Furey. Voters need to keep that in mind as they fill out their ballots between now and March 25."

The Liberal party also issued a statement Tuesday night, with Furey thanking all candidates and those working on the campaign for their dedication.

"As the independent agency responsible for running the election in Newfoundland and Labrador, Elections NL is navigating this unprecedented situation," he said. "The Liberal Party encourages everyone who received a mail-in ballot to send back their completed kits as quickly as possible."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

With files from Alex Kennedy

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