PEI

Why it took so long to declare a winner in Charlottetown-West Royalty

Some people watching the P.E.I. election Tuesday night may have gone to bed thinking the Green Party won in District 14 Charlottetown-West Royalty only to find out later it went to the Liberal Party.

Advance poll was largest — and last — to come in, and it was the difference-maker

Tim Garrity, chief electoral officer for Elections P.E.I., says while they want the results quickly, 'it has to be right.' (CBC News: Compass)

Some people watching the P.E.I. election Tuesday night may have gone to bed thinking the Green Party won District 14 Charlottetown West Royalty only to find out later it went to the Liberal Party.

That's because Green candidate Gavin Hall had led most of the night and was still leading with one poll remaining. But that one poll was a big one — the advance poll — and it propelled Liberal Gord McNeilly to victory.

Coincidentally, the same thing happened in the district in the 2015 election when McNeilly, who ran for the NDP, led most of the way only to lose to Liberal Kathleen Casey when the advance poll was the last to come in.

Tim Garrity, chief electoral officer for Elections P.E.I., said it's a large and challenging poll to count — almost 3,800 ballots counting the referendum vote — and accuracy is more important than speed.

"We do want it quickly but it has to be right," he said. "We did start counting early, it just took longer than we had anticipated."

Liberal Gord McNeilly trailed in District 14 for most of election night until the advance poll results came in. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Each party is allowed up to two scrutineers to look over the ballots as they are being counted, which can slow down the process, Garrity said.

"There are a lot of people around the table as you're going through the count and everybody has the right to take a look at the ballot," he said.

"They're not allowed to touch it, but to look at it to make sure it's accurately marked and sometimes there's some conversations as to whether or not it is marked correctly or does it need to be rejected and then somebody else may have to step in and take a look at it. So it's a little bit longer than people think."

Work not over for Elections P.E.I.

The work is still not over for Elections P.E.I. Friday is the deadline for recounts.There had not been any requests as of Thursday afternoon, which Garrity said was not surprising given the lack of really close races.

May 9 is declaration day — "the official declaration of the winners in each of the districts."

In the meantime, Garrity and his crew are working with the returning officers to get the ballot boxes and materials back to Elections P.E.I. for safekeeping, and working with HR to make sure payroll is set up for all the election workers.

They will also be preparing for a byelection in District 9, which must be held within three months of April 19.

More P.E.I. news

With files from CBC News: Compass

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