Nova Scotia

Understaffing leads to lagging results in HRM

The returning officer for HRM admits elections officials dropped the ball, causing hours-long delays in announcing some election results in the capital city.

Some votes being recorded hours after polls close

Some votes were being recorded hours after polls closed in Halifax. (CBC)

The returning officer for HRM admits elections officials dropped the ball, causing hours–long delays in announcing some election results in the capital city.

Cathy Mellett said a combination of not enough workers on the phones, and a slow computer system were causing the backlog.

Mellett told CBC News they had eight people staffed on the phones to receive the results, but as poll workers tried to call in it created a bottleneck, and they constantly heard busy signals.

Mellett said the elections office increased that number to ten people on the phones, and some staff even turned to their cell phones just to receive the results.

"We scaled it exactly the same way it’s been scaled since 2000," Mellett said. "Was it enough? No."

Then, the backlog faced another hurdle as just four employees were manually plugging numbers into the system. She said she understood the frustration.

"People are used to electronic, immediate poll reports now, this is a very, very manual system."

Several districts in Halifax were left waiting because of the issue. In District 7, incumbent Sue Uteck made the unusual step of conceding to Waye Mason hours before the results were official.

Mellett said staff would work through the night until each district was complete. She said on average, they were entering one poll result every two minutes. She said an additional computer was going to be set up around 11 p.m. to help speed up the process.

"People waited, and I know it was frustrating for them and I really, really appreciate that they kept trying, they got their results through."

Mellett said she wasn’t sure voter turnout was a factor. Several polling stations reported a steady stream of voters throughout the day, but Mellett said she couldn’t comment on the turnout until every poll was entered into the city’s system.