The number of Canadians opting to vote by mail in next week’s federal election will likely end up far lower than Elections Canada’s initial estimates.
The organization said just last month that it was bracing for a massive surge in mail-in ballot requests as Canadians looked for alternative voting methods amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Surveys conducted by Elections Canada suggested that between two and three million Canadians would vote by mail this year, up from about 50,000 during the 2019 election.
But with just one day left for voters to request special ballot voting kits, which can be submitted by mail, only 985,000 Canadians have done so. About 52,000 of those requests were made by Canadians living outside the country. In 2019, such voters accounted for the majority of mail-in requests.
Special ballot voting kits do not include a list of candidates — voters must instead write the name of their chosen candidate on the ballot.
Special ballots can also be dropped off at Elections Canada offices. They are also used for voting at at places such as hospitals and prisons.
Elections Canada has said it expects the vast majority of special ballots requested this year will be submitted by mail.
Voters who request mail-in kits are also not permitted to vote in-person during advance polls or on election day.
If you’d like to vote by mail but haven’t requested your ballot yet, you can apply online at this web site. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Tuesday, Sept. 14, at 6 p.m.
Election day is next Monday, Sept. 20.
Delays expected due to mail-in ballots
Despite the number of requests falling well below the expected demand, mail-in ballots are still expected to make the 2021 election an unusual one, since the results in some close races could be delayed by several days.
Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault has warned that election officials will not begin counting mail-in ballots until Sept. 21 in order to ensure that all ballots received by the cutoff are tallied.
Perrault has said it could take two to five days to complete the count of mail-in ballots, which could prevent close races from being called until that count is complete.
Voters in Victoria have requested 11,288 special ballots as of Sept. 13, the most of any electoral district in Canada. The riding was decided by just 2,382 votes in 2019, suggesting that a similarly close race could be among those delayed while mail-on ballots are counted.
In the 2019 election, nine ridings were decided by a margin of 500 or fewer votes.
Advance polling figures similar to 2019
Today also marks the final day for Canadians to vote in advance polls, which opened on Friday.
Advance polling figures collected so far also suggest that option has been popular, but not significantly more so than in the 2019 federal election.
Thanks for your patience over the first days of advance polls. On Friday, our first estimates show that more than 1.3 million Canadians cast their ballot in person. That’s more than on the first day of advance polls during GE43! <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ItsOurVote?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ItsOurVote</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/CdnPoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#CdnPoli</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Elxn44?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Elxn44</a> (1/2) <a href=”https://t.co/0d6QMg6YqD”>pic.twitter.com/0d6QMg6YqD</a>
Around 1.3 million Canadians cast their ballots at advance polls on Friday during the first of four advance voting days, Elections Canada has said. Numbers from Saturday and Sunday have not yet been made available.
More than 4.9 million people voted in advance polls in the 2019 election.