Nova Scotia

Elections N.S. decides how to count early votes after sudden PC candidate swap

Elections Nova Scotia has decided how some early votes cast in an upcoming provincial byelection in Cape Breton will be counted, after the PC Party switched candidates just hours before nominations closed.

PCs replaced candidate in Northside-Westmount byelection a week after voting began

Danny Laffin is now running as an Independent candidate in the byelection for Northside-Westmount, scheduled for Sept. 3. (Danny Laffin/Facebook)

Elections Nova Scotia has decided how some early votes cast in an upcoming provincial byelection in Cape Breton will be counted, after the PC Party switched candidates just hours before nominations closed.

Danny Laffin was dropped as the Progressive Conservative candidate for Northside-Westmount after the party said he failed its vetting process. The PCs nominated Murray Ryan in his stead, but Laffin chose to run as an Independent.

After reviewing the situation, Elections Nova Scotia has offered some clarity to voters who cast their votes in the week prior to the closing of nominations on Aug. 14.

"We have had withdraws in the past so we looked back at past examples to see how our process would apply to the specifics of this situation," said Naomi Shelton, director of policy and communications for Elections Nova Scotia.

If the voter wrote in Laffin's name, the vote will count for Laffin. If they only checked the PC Party, it will go to Ryan. If the ballot included both a check for the PCs and Laffin's name, it will go to Laffin.

Ballots available before nominations close include all of the registered parties but no names. They also include a space to write a name.

Ballots used before nominations close don't have candidate names, only party names. (Elections Nova Scotia)

Jim David, provincial director of the Nova Scotia PC Party, said the party respects Elections Nova Scotia's decision.

"We do respect that opinion and I think the most important thing at this point is to get on with the byelection," said David.

Shelton said the decision follows similar situations that arose in the 2017 provincial election.

Following that election, chief electoral officer Richard Temporale recommended changing the policies around early voting to prevent situations like this from arising. He recommended early voting start two hours after nominations close.

"To allow two hours for voters to be fully informed about the candidates in their district," said Shelton.

That's something the PC Party also agrees with, according to David. He said in their own post-election report in 2017, they too recommended not allowing voting until after nominations closed.

"It's only fair that electors know candidates names and which party and how they represent themselves," said David, adding it's also unfair to Independent candidates.

Temporale's recommendations did not receive unanimous support from the Election Commission, which means the recommendations didn't make it to the legislature for voting.

CBC has reached out Laffin for comment.

Byelections are underway in three constituencies — Argyle-Barrington, Northside-Westmount, and Sydney River-Mira-Louisbourg. Election day is Sept. 3.

About the Author

Brittany Wentzell

Current Affairs Reporter/Editor

Brittany Wentzell is based in Sydney, N.S., as a reporter for Information Morning Cape Breton. She has covered a wide range of issues including education, forestry and municipal government. Story ideas? Send them to brittany.wentzell@cbc.ca

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