Elections Canada says it's ready for a pandemic election, but how many mail-in ballots will be counted?
TORONTO -- While Canadians wait to hear when a federal election will be called, Elections Canada has reassured the public that the pandemic will not hinder their operations. On this week's episode of Trend Line, Nanos Research's Nik Nanos discusses what it will take to count the votes amid COVID-19.
In June, Canada's Chief Electoral Officer said that Elections Canada is ready to conduct a pandemic election should one be called at any time, without the need for the federal government to pass its COVID-19-focused elections law changes in Bill C-19.
In the last federal election, out of 18.3 million ballots cast approximately 55,000 were done by mail.
During the pandemic, the number is expected to be far greater.
"We recently did a survey and we asked Canadians how interested or uninterested they were in voting by mail if there were an election this fall," Nanos Research's Nik Nanos said on the latest episode of Trend Line. "It might not sound like a big number, [but] 37 per cent of Canadians outright said that they're interested in voting by mail."
That means Elections Canada potentially could be counting millions, not thousands, of mail-in ballots.
The agency said it has clear rules on how ballots must be received and counted under the Canada Elections Act.
“Local mail-in ballots (those used by electors voting from within their own riding) must be received before poll close locally on elections day,” the agency said in an email. “Ballots mailed in from Canadian citizens living abroad, or those voting by mail from within Canada but outside of their riding, must be received at our central Ottawa location by 6 PM Eastern on election day.”
Election Canada also said that voters need to request a mail-in ballot by 6 p.m. on the Tuesday before election day.
With a far greater number of mail-in ballots expected, it may benefit one party over another, Nanos explained.
"Think of it this way. We're in a pandemic situation. If mail voting is easy and if it's run well by Elections Canada, we may see a really big number of older voters decide not to go in person because they're worried about their personal health and take advantage of the convenience of voting by mail," he said.
"It's possible that on election night we might be seeing more of centre and left parties leading and the Conservatives behind, and then possibly when Elections Canada starts counting the mail-in ballots, the Conservatives might see a slight bump in support later on."
Listen to the full episode of Trend Line with CTVNews.ca's Michael Stittle and Nanos Research's Nik Nanos wherever you get your podcasts.
With files from CTV News' Rachel Aiello