Nova Scotia

Election in the time of COVID-19: Nova Scotia officials prepare

A recent flurry of spending announcements by Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin has led to speculation that an election call is imminent. The province's elections agency wants the public to know it is ready.

Supplies 'locked and loaded'

Elections Nova Scotia says these tabletop shields will be in place for any interactions between staff and voters. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

A recent flurry of spending announcements by Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin has led to speculation that an election call is imminent. 

The province's elections agency wants the public to know it is ready.

Naomi Shelton, the director of policy and communications for Elections Nova Scotia, said she has no inside information on the matter but anticipates a general election between "now and next spring."

She said the agency had an election readiness date of April 1, 2021.

Naomi Shelton, the director of policy and communications at Elections Nova Scotia, says the agency has been ready to go since April 1. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

"We've been ready to go since that date," she said. "Our supplies are locked and loaded and ready for deployment to the field. Our returning office staff is trained and all of our materials are ready."

COVID-19 has added a layer of complexity, but Shelton said the pandemic has been in every aspect of planning since last year.

Stop the vote count at midnight

People eager to hear the results of the next election may find themselves waiting longer than usual.

Shelton said Elections Nova Scotia expects a large number of votes and an increase in the number of write-in ballots as voters try to avoid going to polling stations.

"Our chief electoral officer has communicated that he anticipates, potentially, the need to to stop the vote count at midnight on election night and continue the next day," she said.

"And that would really be, in a way, to try to mitigate human error in terms of the vote count, if it goes past midnight."

Election supplies and COVID supplies are ready to be shipped to election locations. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Shelton said physical distancing and other public health measures will be in place for the election. 

In addition to having a voting card with them at the polling location, voters should also bring a pen in case they need to sign a declaration or complete a form. 

Voters will be given their own pencil to mark their ballot.

Shelton said the agency has been working for the past year to secure space within each district to use for early voting, election day voting, and returning offices.

"We're requiring larger spaces because we want to be able to maintain physical distance for COVID protocols," she said.

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With files from Paul Palmeter

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