PEI·PEI Votes

Polls will be open for Islanders in District 9 to vote on electoral reform

Elections P.E.I. is reminding voters that despite a postponed election in District 9, polls will still be open for people to participate in the referendum on electoral reform. 

Goal remains to have as many Islanders as possible take part, says Elections P.E.I.

'We want to remind everyone in District 9 who voted in the advance polls that their referendum ballot will still be counted,' says Tim Garrity, P.E.I.'s chief electoral officer. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Elections P.E.I. is reminding voters that even with a postponed election in District 9 — polls will still be open for the referendum on electoral reform. 

Green Party candidate Josh Underhay and his young son died in a canoeing accident on Friday, forcing the election in District 9 Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park to be postponed.

Goal remains the same

In spite of the tragic news, the goal remains to have as many Islanders as possible — including those in District 9 — take part in the referendum, said Tim Garrity, P.E.I.'s chief electoral officer.

"We understand that this tragic event may have an impact on the vote on the referendum portion of the ballot," said Garrity.

Josh Underhay was a teacher, musician and passionate cycling advocate. He is survived by his wife and another child. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"But we have been very clear in our messaging that this is still continuing and we hope that the turnout in District 9 is high.

"We want to remind everyone in District 9 who voted in the advance polls that their referendum ballot will still be counted," Garrity said.

It's likely the suspension of the election in District 9 will impact referendum results, said UPEI political science Prof. Don Desserud. 

Uncertain voter turnout

The referendum was linked to the election in the hopes that strong voter turnout would mean high participation in a vote on electoral reform, Desserud said. 

"If voters in District 9 now don't have the incentive to vote for their MLA, we don't know whether they'll show up for the referendum itself," said Desserud.

"They might, they might think it's a great way to pay homage to Mr. Underhay and try to do something in honour of his memory, but they also might not see it as worthwhile, so that would depress the number of votes at least in one riding and that could have a consequence across the board."

Vote Yes P.E.I., the registered group working to persuade Islanders to change the way we vote, said it supports the referendum commissioner's decision to continue the referendum in District 9.

Josh Underhay was the Green Party candidate for District 9 Charlottetown-Hillsborough Park. Some of the other candidates in the district took their signs down on Saturday. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"The situation is tragic, however, with a provincial-wide vote there is no reasonable alternative," said Rachel Barry, a spokesperson for the organization. 

"We will, through social media, be encouraging District 9 and all Islanders to vote on April 23." 

"Overall, I would imagine turnout of those who have not yet voted will be reduced," said John Barrett, spokesperson for No What to Vote, the group advocating to retain the first past the post system of voting.

Elections P.E.I. said Islanders in District 9 who have not yet voted can cast their referendum ballot tomorrow from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the Malcolm Darrach Community Centre for polls one through five and at the Carrefour de l'Isle-Saint-Jean for polls six through 10.

A date for the byelection will be set in the coming weeks.

More P.E.I. news

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Doria-Brown

Videojournalist

Jessica Doria-Brown is a videojournalist with CBC in P.E.I. Originally from Toronto, Jessica has worked for CBC in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Ontario.

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