Mail-in voting exploded in popularity in this Ontario election, but as a local household discovered, there can be complications

Although Elections Ontario said there were no indications of widespread difficulties with the timely delivery of mail-in voting kits, they did not provide a figure when asked how many mail-in voting kits mailed ballots had not been delivered by the voting deadline for that election. .

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Jeff Reeves was one of 1,774 Kanata–Carleton residents eligible to vote by mail in last week’s Ontario election. Unfortunately, in Reeves’ case, voting wasn’t the smooth process he expected.

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The voting kits he and his partner received never made it to their mailbox. It put Reeves on a winding road to the polls and left his partner unable to vote — a lesson in the potential complications associated with the increasingly popular method of Democratic turnout voting by mail.

It’s something Reeves had never tried before and involves applying through Elections Ontario, receiving a voting kit in the mail with a ballot, and returning the completed kit by mail or drop it off at a local polling station.

The couple weren’t sure they’d be in town this election to vote in person, and Reeves had seen good things about the process in last fall’s federal election – when more than 500,000 voters cast their ballots by post from their constituency, compared to some 5,000 in previous elections. And so, they decided to go.

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Canada Post tracking data for their voting packages show that they were received by the postal service on May 24 and traveled from the GTA to Ottawa, to Montreal (and back to Ottawa, in the case of its partner). Almost a week after the election, their status remained « in transit ».

With time running out before Election Day on June 2, Reeves opened a service ticket with Canada Post. He says he told the representative on the postal operator’s chat service that it was his ballot he was waiting for. The May 31 service ticket, meanwhile, informed him that « we will continue to monitor the progress of the item » and « in the event that we are unable to confirm delivery in our tracking system by (June 7) we will inform you by e-mail of the next steps.

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Contacted by this newspaper on Wednesday, Canada Post undertook to shed light on the situation. « While this is an isolated incident that does not reflect the mail-in voting process, we take this matter very seriously. We are committed to determining what happened so that we can continue to improve our process and to prevent such issues in the future,” spokesperson Phil Legault said.

Still without a ballot the day before the election, Reeves made contact with his MP Merrilee Fullerton’s campaign office. He says someone was happy to look into the matter for him – he believes they called the local returning office – and advised him that he could not vote without his postal ballot.

Fullerton’s campaign manager told this newspaper that he was unaware of this particular exchange, but they had a script for campaign workers that had them direct every call about the vote to the office of the campaign manager. local ballot. He was not aware of any other voters who had a problem voting by mail.

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Reeves said he then called Elections Ontario, who informed him that it would be possible to vote – he only had to go to his office of the returning officer, where they could have his ballot spoiled. vote and allow him to vote one over there. In the end, that’s exactly what he did, although he had to convince the workers he was dealing with there to call Elections Ontario because they too didn’t think he could vote.

Reeves is a 65-year-old retiree, « so I had time… to go through all that rigamarole. » His partner wasn’t in town to join him, so she didn’t vote in this election.

The experience left Reeves wondering how many other mail-in voters were in the same boat, waiting for ballots that never arrived. And if there were others, how many couldn’t or didn’t bother to vote, or were deterred by roadblocks like the ones he encountered?

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Although Elections Ontario said there were no indications of widespread difficulties with the timely delivery of mail-in voting kits, they did not provide a figure when asked how many mail-in voting kits mailed ballots had not been delivered by the voting deadline for that election. . It is unclear whether they will tally that particular number at any time, although they will report the number of mail-in ballot kits sent and the number returned in time to be counted.

This is something Reeves disputed. “If I was (it was them), I would like to know if the system works and if they can trust it. Because it’s their job.

As with every election, « Elections Ontario will conduct a thorough review of electoral processes, » Jo Langham, head of media and public engagement, said in an emailed statement. « We will release a post-event report that will include the Chief Electoral Officer’s assessment of alternative voting methods and general election commentary. »

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More than 126,000 mail-in voting kits were distributed to voters across the province, a substantial increase from approximately 15,200 mailed out in 2018 and 10,600 in 2014. Elections Ontario launched a new voting application this year. Online postal voting aimed at easier and faster process, Langham said. Legally, they can only make the app available once an election is called, and Ontario’s election period is 29 days.

“Voters who requested to vote by mail were informed that once their request was approved, their name would be removed from the voters list and that they could not choose another way to vote in this election,” said Langham. “However, when we were made aware of the difficulties delivering voting kits, we made arrangements for these voters to continue voting in person at their returning office until 6 p.m. ET on Election Day. , June 2.

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It’s a different approach than seen at the national level, where Langham said the law differs from Ontario’s.

In the 2021 federal election, voters whose mail-in ballots were lost, damaged, or otherwise unusable were allowed to come to their local polling place on election day and vote in person at instead, with measures in place to prevent fraud. It’s a temporary allowance that the country’s Chief Electoral Officer recommended making permanent in a report tabled this week.

“It would have been easier, obviously, than what I did,” Reeves said.

Aside from his partner, Reeves did not know of anyone else who had experienced similar issues and said he would try mail-in voting again if he knew he would be absent from his constituency in a future election. Otherwise, however, he expected to stick to his usual method.

« Because voting in person is quite easy in Canada, thankfully. »

Vote by mail, by the numbers: voting kits mailed to residents of Ottawa ridings

Ottawa Centre: 2,394

Orleans: 1,879

Kanata-Carleton: 1,774

Ottawa West–Nepean: 1,750

Nepeans: 1,654

Carlton: 1,519

Ottawa South: 1,419

Ottawa–Vanier: 1,286

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