On January 31st, Elections Canada released their initial report about the 2021 federal election.
You can be forgiven for not noticing their news release. The only mainstream news outlet to carry the report was Blacklock’s Reporter, who ran the story under the headline, “Over 200,000 Ballots Not Counted“.
Blacklock’s noted, “The agency sent ballot kits to 1,274,447 electors who asked to vote by mail. Of those only 1,068,543 were returned and counted. The difference of some 205,000 uncounted ballots included 90,000 “returned late and not counted” and another 114,583 that were never returned.”
“While early indications are that Canadians were generally satisfied with voting services offered by Elections Canada,” wrote Stéphane Perrault, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, “the agency did experience a number of challenges in administering the 44th general election. We are carefully analyzing those issues and working on solutions for the future.”
Among those challenges:
- Elections Canada prepared to receive as many as 5 million requests for special ballot voting kits from electors wishing to vote by mail—a scale 100 times greater than in the previous general election.
- Many traditional polling places, such as community centres, churches and schools, would likely be unavailable owing to concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19 or because these locations were being used as vaccination or testing centres. Other locations, although available, would not have the space or infrastructure needed to meet physical distancing or other public health requirements.
- As reported by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted Canada’s seniors, with the majority of COVID-19 deaths occurring among adults aged 65 years and older. Elections Canada expected that these vulnerable Canadians, who made up a significant portion of the workforce for previous electoral events, would be reluctant to put themselves in a situation that would expose them to additional risk.
- A key priority for Elections Canada was ensuring that vulnerable electors, including those residing in long-term care facilities and those in Indigenous communities, had the opportunity to vote safely. This was complicated by the fact that a large number of such facilities and communities were in lockdown and that voting by special ballot could present challenges for their residents.
Other high-lights of the 2021 federal election report:
- 1,589 special ballots from electors in Mississauga-Streetville were not counted.
On September 21, 2021, Elections Canada was advised of one electoral district, Mississauga–Streetsville (Ontario), where 1,589 special ballots from electors voting from within the electoral district had accumulated in a commercial mail room outside the control of the returning officer. Because these ballots were received after the September 20 deadline, they were not counted.
This had no impact on the results for that electoral district, as the leading candidate had a margin of victory of 6,567 votes. Elections Canada is continuing to examine what caused the incident and will implement appropriate measures to prevent a recurrence in future events.
- Elections Canada received more than 700,000 special ballots by mail, a massive increase from the 2019 federal election, which saw only 55,000 special ballots by mail.
Full details are in the Elections Canada report, which can be downloaded in PDF format here.