Nova Scotia·Nova Scotia Votes

Write-in ballots are popular. But it is up to voters to get them in on time

With a record number of write-in ballot applications from Nova Scotians, the onus is now on those voters to make sure their ballot gets to the box.

Provincial election has seen record number of write-in ballot applications from Nova Scotians

An example of the package a write-in ballot applicant might receive to help record their vote. (Naomi Shelton)

Casting a vote from the comfort of home has never been more popular for Nova Scotians.

Just don't get too comfortable.

Thousands of voters applied online and have been receiving write-in ballot packages in their mailboxes. But each of those ballots needs to be returned to Elections Nova Scotia by Aug. 17 at 8 p.m. to count in the provincial election results.

"We've set a new record for write-in ballot applications," said Naomi Shelton, director of policy and communications with Elections Nova Scotia.

The write-in ballot option was first made available in Nova Scotia during the 2003 election.

"We know there's greater interest in it because of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Shelton.

"What we're encouraging voters now who have received their write-in ballot at home is to please make sure that you complete the process on time so it can be counted," she said.

Write-in ballots don't need to be mailed

Write-in ballots are often referred to as mail-in ballots, or voting by mail.

But that doesn't tell the full story.

"You can vote by mail, but you don't have to," Shelton said. "And I think that's really important to know."

Elections Nova Scotia will not be providing a deadline to mail the ballots since it can't guarantee when the mail gets delivered.

Sound Off: Election Edition - Episode 3

2 years ago
Duration 4:13
Party platforms, planks and political positions are coming into focus. In some cases, there are some interesting role reversals.

"If you do think you have time to mail it back, that's your choice," Shelton said. "If you're concerned there might not be time to get it back through the mail, you can also choose to return it in person to the returning office in your electoral district."

Shelton said a person can also have an agent return it for them. That might be a trusted friend or family member who is 18 or older.

Shelton stressed the importance of contact with the returning office. If a person assigns someone to help with voting or delivering a ballot, or if there are questions about the process, the office in the electoral district should be consulted.

Voters can visit the Elections Nova Scotia website to locate their returning office or call 1-800-565-1504 for information.

Write-in ballot teams on standby

If a person has concerns about getting a write-in ballot delivered on time, there is no need for worry.

"You can call your returning office and ask them for assistance to get your completed write-in ballot in," Shelton said.

Teams of Elections Nova Scotia staff are ready to help voters who run out of options to return their ballots, or who simply need assistance with the write-in process.

"They will come and pick up your completed write-in ballot, if that's an option that you need," she said.

Online application is now closed

The period to apply online for write-in ballots has closed. But voters with a fear of missing out on a write-in opportunity can still get their hands on a ballot.

A person can contact the returning office and apply to have someone pick up a write-in ballot on their behalf. They could even go themselves.

The write-in ballot process is just one of many options available. Others include community polls, advance polls and the continuous poll at each returning office.

Down to the wire?

What's the latest someone could vote via write-in ballot without leaving their home?

Shelton said it could be as late as the afternoon of Aug. 17.

"If there's a voter who is not able to get out on election day, then you could go as their agent to the local returning office, apply for a write-in ballot before 3 p.m. on election night, and complete that write-in ballot kit with that voter. Then, have it returned in-person by 8 p.m. that night," she said.



Brett Ruskin


Brett Ruskin is a reporter and videojournalist covering everything from local breaking news to national issues. He's based in Halifax.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?