TORONTO — Elections Canada expected a wave of Canadians requesting mail-in ballots for the Sept. 20 federal election amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but so far, it’s been more akin to a ripple.
The country’s non-partisan voting agency, which at one point estimated it would need to process as many as five million mail-in ballots, has so far only issued just over a tenth of that amount.
As of Monday, with just two weeks left in the election campaign period, 547,391 voting kits have been sent out, with 133,277 having been returned. Canadians have until Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. EDT to request a mail-in ballot.
The number of voting kits issued is more than 10 times the approximately 50,000 mail-in ballots cast in the 2019 election, but still well short of a revised estimate of 2 million to 3 million Elections Canada projected in mid-August.
“The important thing for us is to be prepared. We planned for high volumes to be sure we would be ready,” said Elections Canada spokesperson Matthew McKenna.
“We still believe that voting in person during advance polls or on election day is the simplest, most efficient way to cast a ballot in this election, and we expect the majority of Canadians will choose one of these options.”
In addition, the ballots sent out don’t necessarily have to be returned by post.
Once you have the special ballot and fill it out, you have to make sure it gets to Elections Canada by Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. EDT for it to count. Typically the ballot is sent in by mail – using a prepaid envelope – but you also have the option of physically dropping it off at any polling location in your riding.
Elections Canada keeps a running tally of the voting kits it issues, and where, on its website.
So far, 461,906 have been sent to voters within Canada in their own ridings. There have been 39,523 ballots sent to Canadians voting from outside their riding. Finally, 45,962 kits were sent to voters living outside of the country.
Every returned ballot thus far has come from a voter who was issued a kit within their own riding.
Of the top 10 ridings where voters have requested mail-in ballots for ridings where they live, nine are in British Columbia.
With files from CTVNews.ca’s Cameron French and The Canadian Press