VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Elections Canada is hiring more people to deal with the growing number of mail-in ballots being requested, three weeks ahead of voting day and amid ongoing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, the federal agency says it’s possible up to six million Canadians could vote by mail. But if you want to be one of them, you’ll need to request your voting package soon.
Andrea Marantz, the B.C. spokesperson for Elections Canada, says the agency is seeing fewer requests for now, but that could change.
“We really don’t know. At this point, it’s tracking much lower than the expected number of people to register — still, much higher than we’ve ever had before. But, we’re very much last-minute creatures, us people, so we’re expecting it to continue to increase as we get closer to the deadline,” she told NEWS 1130.
That influx in absentee ballots means more hands on deck.
“We hired more people to process these applications because that’s the part that takes some time, and involves some extra steps. We did bolster that crew and reassigned some IT resources so we could get it all done,” explained Marantz.
It’s unclear exactly how many additional hires were made in anticipation of the demand.
Deadlines and rules
Marantz says anyone wanting to vote by mail will have to registered for their mail-in ballot by Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. PT.
“Mail-in ballots have been available in Canadian elections actually for about 30 years, so it’s nothing new. The process isn’t different. What is different is that we expect a lot more people to use it,” she explained.
Marantz says the vote-by-mail process is a simple one, with safeguards built in.
“You apply to vote by mail, and you can do that online, you can do that through your cellphone, you can do that at a returning office, a local returning office. And once that application is in, you’re committed,” she told NEWS 1130.
That means you will have to use that mail-in ballot no matter what, even if you change your mind and want to go to the polling station to fill out your ballot there. If you don’t want to mail it in, however, you are able to take your special ballot and submit it to a polling station in-person, if you so choose.
“You can return that ballot in-person to your local returning office in your electoral district, or, on polling day, you can have a neighbour or someone who’s in the same polling district as you, take it to the polling place,” Marantz said.
When it comes to meeting deadlines, Marantz says the information package makes it very clear what options voters have to ensure their ballots make it on time.
“We’re trying to make sure that people are very, very clear on that.”
If you’re one of the many people who plans to vote on election day at your local polling station, you’re being reminded that, by law, your employer has to give you three consecutive hours to do so. Your employer gets to decide what hours you take.
If they don’t, they could face hefty fines or even jail time.
Advance polling days are Sept. 10 to 13 this year.
Election day is Sept. 20.