Millions of Canadians will vote today, casting their ballot to help decide which party will form the next government. The CBC’s Poll Tracker shows a statistical tie between the Liberals and Conservatives in the popular vote, but today is when that political cliché becomes the truth — the only poll that matters is the one on election night.
The first thing is how long it actually takes for enough votes to be counted to get a sense of the result.
The majority of anticipated votes in this election will be counted as they always are, by hand after polls close. Votes cast in advance polls will also be counted at this time, although returning offices can start that process an hour before polls close at the discretion of the returning officer.
Special ballots from Canadians outside of their ridings (including outside the country, such as members of the Armed Forces deployed overseas) are already being counted. What’s different about this election is that hundreds of thousands of Canadians are mailing ballots from within their ridings, and those ballots are subject to additional verification processes. So, Elections Canada won’t be counting them until Tuesday. If the election is as close as it seems, Canadians may not know the full results until Tuesday at the earliest.
Voter turnout in a pandemic
As of Sunday, 1,262,617 special ballot kits had been issued by Elections Canada, and 923,832 had been returned.
The high number of Canadians voting by mail from their own ridings is one sign of how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed this election.
But it’s unclear right now how much it will affect turnout on election day itself. In-person voting at advance polls was actually substantially higher than in 2019, with approximately 5,780,000 votes cast from Sept. 10-13, Elections Canada estimates.
Whether the roughly 18.5 per cent increase over 2019 is because Canadians were trying to avoid crowds on election day, or because of the long-standing trend in increased advance turnout, or some other reason related to the pandemic is unclear. And beyond the effects of the pandemic, it’s always worth watching how many Canadians make the time to take part in the democratic process.
Several Liberal cabinet ministers are at risk of losing their seats in tight races across the country. Atlantic Canada seems unlikely to boot any of the cabinet ministers representing provinces there, so the first seats Canadians should watch for are probably in Quebec and Ontario.