TORONTO — As Canadians grapple with the decision of who to vote for, thousands of mail-in ballots are arriving at doorsteps, with just over a week to go before election day.
Mail-in ballot requests are up as the pandemic presses on — but not as much as Elections Canada was anticipating.
This is the second time Ann Takagi is voting by mail. The first was last year, during B.C.’s provincial election.
“I didn’t know if I’d be able to make it to the polls in person,” Takagi told CTV News.
“Things were a lot more tentative about the COVID situation, so … that’s what made me feel safest.”
It’s a sentiment shared by thousands of voters. There have been five provincial elections during the pandemic, with each province seeing a significant jump in mail-in ballots.
Andrea Marantz of Elections Canada told CTV News that the agency has been anticipating a similar response during this federal election.
“We knew that that would affect us as well,” she said.
Elections Canada has already sent out almost 800,000 voting kits in total — and they can still be requested for a couple more days.
Of those voting kits requested, more than 670,000 are for voters living in Canada who are voting in their own riding by mail.
“The comparable number from 2019 was 5,000,” Marantz said. “There were about 5,000 Canadians who voted within their own voter district by mail.”
More than 313,000 special ballots have been turned in already.
The majority of requests this year are coming from B.C.
That province houses nine of the 10 ridings with the most special ballots issued to date, with Victoria having requested almost 10,000 ballots.
Ottawa Centre in Ontario rounds off the list, coming in third for most special ballots.
Political scientist Richard Johnston suggested because of B.C.’s provincial election last fall, they may be more comfortable with the process.
“B.C. has the largest number, maybe a number that approximates a number that we had last fall,” Johnston told CTV News. “Other provinces aren’t as familiar with it.”
But while mail-in ballot numbers are up, Elections Canada originally estimated that millions might be requested. Early on, the agency had estimated that they could need as many as five million ballots, though they adjusted that expectation in August to two to three million.
Johnston says a big difference between B.C.’s provincial election and this one is vaccination rates.
“We weren’t in the middle of a particular wave last year in B.C. but there was no vaccination, no prospect of vaccination,” he said. “So people were extremely cautious.”
Canadians still have until Sept. 14 by 6 p.m. EDT to request their mail-in ballot. If the return address is Ottawa, it has to be returned by 6 p.m. EDT on election day to count. Those who have their local Elections Canada office as their return address have to make sure their ballot is received before the polls close on election day.