Nova Scotia

Nova Scotian temporarily 'voted for nobody' during advance poll

Bob Huish is concerned that early ballots make it possible for Nova Scotians to vote for a party that might not end up fielding a candidate.

Early ballots make it possible to vote for a party that might not end up fielding a candidate

Bob Huish says it's problematic that Nova Scotians are allowed to cast a ballot before the candidates are confirmed in their riding. (Peter McIntosh/Otago Images/Otago Daily Times)

A Nova Scotia voter is questioning an election practice that allows advance polls to open before the nominations for candidates have closed. 

He says he might have ended up voting "for nobody" if his party-of-choice hadn't fielded a candidate at the last minute. 

It was a shaky week there, not knowing if the vote was going to actually go to a human being or not.- Bob Huish

When Bob Huish cast his ballot on May 9 — 21 days before Nova Scotia's general election —  he discovered the ballot didn't have any candidate names on it.

Instead, five parties were listed —  Atlantica Party, Green Party, Liberal, NDP, and Progressive Conservative —  as well as a blank space for the voter to write down the name of an independent candidate.

"I put my X in the box," Huish said, and was satisfied "I'd done my civic duty."

That's until he discovered that the party he voted for didn't have a candidate running in the riding. 

"In that moment, I'd voted for nobody," he said.

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

'Invitation to waste a vote'

Huish said he called the party he voted for and offered to run "just so my vote doesn't get wasted," and was reassured that a candidate would be filing nomination papers before the deadline.

That eventually happened, "so it looks like my vote will be counted" after all, he said.

But it was a shaky week, Huish said, "not knowing if the vote was going to actually go to a human being or not." 

He said it's problematic that Nova Scotians are allowed to cast a ballot before the candidates are confirmed in their riding.

"Essentially, it's an invitation to waste a vote," Huish said.

If somebody voted for the Green Party or the Atlantica Party, he said, and the parties don't end up fielding a candidate, "their vote would essentially go up in smoke."

Andy LeBlanc with Elections Nova Scotia says If we waited for the nominations to close before opening advance polls, some people might lose the opportunity to vote. (Elections Nova Scotia)

Official response

Andy LeBlanc, director of policy and communications at Elections Nova Scotia, said the nominations for candidates closed the day after Huish voted —  on May 10 — and the candidates' names were added to the ballots by 9 a.m. the next morning.

He said Elections Nova Scotia's mandate is "to provide as many voting opportunities as possible," and that includes advance voting in many forms.

When it comes to write-in ballots, voters could be mailing ballots from "anywhere in the world," LeBlanc said.

"The timing is fairly critical in this case," he added.

If Elections Nova Scotia waited for the nominations to close before opening advance polls, he said, there could be "a number of people missing out on the opportunity to vote."

LeBlanc said a few thousand people typically use write-in ballots in a Nova Scotia general election.

Open to change

Elections Nova Scotia makes a point of reviewing the "pros and cons" of each voting method after each election, he said, and they're always looking for ways to make improvements.

For example, the deadline for candidates to file their nomination papers took place 14 days before election day in 2013, as opposed to 20 days before in 2017. That means voters can have ballots with the candidates' names on them one week sooner this election than they could last time.

The process is "as fair as we can possibly muster at this point," LeBlanc said.

With files from the CBC's Information Morning

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