Nova Scotia

Delays in HRM results prompt questions

Halifax's mayor-elect says the municipality needs to look at the delays in reporting results for Saturday's election.

'Something went terribly wrong' says Gloria McCluskey

Cathy Mellett stands in the empty room that served as election central Saturday. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Halifax's mayor-elect says the municipality needs to look at what caused the delays in reporting results for Saturday's election.

Mike Savage, who handily won his race, said he would investigate what went wrong. While polls closed at 7 p.m. and results were expected to be announced around 8 p.m., some races had to wait until 3 a.m. for final results.

"I think it's something the city's going to have to have a look at. If it's a matter of not having enough resources then we have to fix that. This is important stuff," he said.

'Something went terribly wrong'

Gloria McCluskey, who won District 5, said things had been quicker when she ran Dartmouth elections decades ago.

"I can't understand what happened. Something went terribly wrong," she said. "I think we have to have a complete review of what went on … because obviously something didn't work."

She said while she knew she had won fairly early, closer races were not declared until early in the morning.  "It was totally unacceptable, especially for people who had a tight race," she said. "It left a lot to be desired."

Too few phones and computers

HRM's returning officer said understaffing was to blame. The problem was not with polling stations counting ballots, but with relaying the results to the central office.

"I'm not satisfied with the way things went last night. I would have liked not to have election workers jammed up on phones and to have entered the data more quickly," said Cathy Mellett. 

"It is an extremely complex and manual process and we obviously under-scaled the resources we needed to do that."

The problem was a logjam when it came to people reporting results from each polling station to the central office. The results came by phone and the ten lines were overwhelmed. With 30 to 40 potential names on 505 booths, there also weren't enough computers to speedily input results.

She said while HRM's e-voting system was 21st century, its manual voting process remains in the 19th century.

"What I would look at next time around is a more decentralized system so that we have fewer people calling into any one location and fewer people data-entering at any one location," she said. "The could-haves, would-haves and hindsight is 20-20."

Those who oversaw the election will meet Thursday to discuss lessons learned from the vote.