Voting begins in P.E.I. plebiscite on electoral reform

Voting is now open in P.E.I.'s provincial plebiscite on electoral reform. Here's what you need to know to cast your ballot.

Ballots can be cast online or by phone starting Oct. 29

Voters are now able to cast their ballot online or by phone. (lipik/Shutterstock)

Voting is now open in P.E.I.'s provincial plebiscite on electoral reform. Here's what you need to know to cast your ballot.

What?

The province is asking Islanders if they want electoral reform, and what system they'd like to see in future elections.

Voters can choose among five different electoral systems, which they are being asked to rank in order of preference.

The paper ballot for the P.E.I. plebiscite. (Submitted by Elections P.E.I.)

Who?

In order to vote, you must be a Canadian citizen who has lived in P.E.I. since May 7, 2016.

Anyone who meets the above criteria and is 16 or older as of Nov. 7, 2016 is eligible to cast a ballot.

When and where?

Voting online and by phone opened Saturday at noon, and runs until Monday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.

Polling stations will also be open on Friday, Nov. 4 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for those who prefer to cast their ballot in person.

In person voting will be available on Nov. 4 and 5. (Getty Images)

How is it counted?

The plebiscite ballots will be counted using the preferential ballot format, where Islanders are asked to put the options in their order of preference.

The paper ballots will be counted by a high-speed machine called the tabulator. That will be converted into a digital file.

A high speed tabulator will be used to process paper ballots in the P.E.I. plebiscite. (Submitted by Election System and Software)

As the paper ballots are processed, the e-voting will continue. When that closes at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7, the results will be put together.

If all goes well, P.E.I.'s chief electoral officer Gary McLeod said he'll deliver the results to the Speaker of the Legislature about an hour after the polls close on Nov. 7 — at which time they will also be made public.

Unlike a referendum, the results of a plebiscite are not binding.

"The main point in the plebiscite is for Prince Edward Islanders to participate and express their views on the five options presented on the ranked ballot. It will then be for the Legislative Assembly to give full and fair consideration to the results," Premier Wade MacLauchlan told CBC News in a statement.

Why?

In June 2015, the P.E.I. government committed to "initiate and support a thorough and comprehensive examination of ways in which to strengthen our electoral system, our representation, and the role and functioning of the Legislative Assembly."

A Special Committee on Democratic Renewal was created in response to this, and made a number of recommendations with regards to this plebiscite.

The plebiscite is part of a 'comprehensive examination' of ways to strengthen P.E.I.'s electoral system. (Peter Power/Canadian Press)