Nfld. & Labrador

Double-check ballots before returning them to Elections NL, St. John's woman says

As Elections NL begins counting ballots in the province’s extended election, one St. John’s woman is urging voters to double-check their mail-in ballots before returning them.

Elections NL asking voters to contact them if they have issues

Kayleigh Kennedy says she received the wrong voter declaration envelope in her voting kit. Elections NL provided her with a new one, but noted the original envelope wouldn't have spoiled her ballot. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

As Elections NL begins counting ballots on Monday, in the province's extended election, one St. John's woman is urging voters to double-check their mail-in ballots before returning them.

When the election was called, Kayleigh Kennedy planned to vote in person, since she lives near a polling station in her Waterford Valley district.

"We had zero cases [of COVID-19] for so long that I was comfortable just going to vote in-person," Kennedy said. 

But when cases skyrocketed and the province went into an Alert Level 5 lockdown, Kennedy changed her mind.

"There's no way on God's green earth that I am going into a public place right now," she said via FaceTime on Sunday.

Kennedy said she applied for a mail-in ballot and marked an X for her candidate of choice.

Elections NL says the ballot mailout has been a manual process, and human error is possible. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

"I read all the instructions, I signed it, I put it in the green ballot envelope. And then when I went to put it in the blue one, like the declaration envelope you have to sign, I noticed my name was printed on it, but it said 'St. John's Centre' underneath it instead of 'Waterford Valley,'" Kennedy said.

Kennedy called Tom Osborne, the Liberal candidate in Waterford Valley, and asked him if she could return her ballot in the wrong envelope, fearing it could spoil her ballot. She says Osborne contacted Elections NL on her behalf, which then dropped off new envelopes with the correct district printed on them.

"My first thought was how many other people around here has this happened to and are they going to notice? Because I was ready to just throw it in the envelope and stick it in the mail," said Kennedy, who lives on a street that borders the St. John's Centre district.

Wrong envelope won't spoil ballot: Elections NL

In a statement, a spokesperson for Elections NL said some people have received an incorrect ballot, but issues have not been "significant." 

"When we shifted from the in-person vote to strictly vote-by-mail process, we also switched from using the candidate ballots to the write-in ballots. Approximately 35,000 people will have received candidate ballots whereas the rest of the approximately 120,000 applicants are receiving blank, write-in ballots," reads part of the statement.

Elections NL said anyone who has an issue with a voting kit should contact them so the the problem can be fixed. 

"We have issued replacement voting kits to those who have needed them. The process of compiling the voting kits for the mail is a fully manual process. Human error is certainly a possibility." the statement said.

Meanwhile, Elections NL said, ballots returned in the wrong declaration envelope won't be spoiled.

"As long as the elector signs and dates the blue declaration envelope, we are able to look them up in our system to determine their correct electoral district."

In the meantime, Kennedy is reminding voters to double-check their kits "just in case, because every vote counts."

"If there's mistakes along the way that aren't our fault, then I think people should be watching out for those," she said.

Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by March 12 in order to be counted.

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