Vote by mail? It’s not as easy as you think

Elections Canada was preparing for a large number of mail-in ballots, but despite the added security of voting from home during the pandemic, the process may be putting some people off.

You must submit a request to receive your ballot by mail for the federal elections. And then there is the ballot itself. Mail-in ballots are also known as special ballots and are different from ballots used on Election Day. They take more work to complete and submit.

The more familiar ballot has a list of candidates, along with their party, if applicable, and a voter checks the box next to a name. Anyone who mails their vote receives a ballot with no names and a place to write their choice of candidate; Elections Canada will not accept to write the name of the party. In addition, there are a number of envelopes that must be used in a specific order to mail a ballot.

Elections Canada spokeswoman Nathalie de Montigny said the reason for the fill in the blanks process is that special ballots are available to voters as soon as the election is called, but the deadline for all candidates to be log drops after that. On this occasion, the elections were called on August 15 and candidates had to register before August 31.

Finding out who’s name to write on the ballot could be problematic. Voters can search for their candidates online, call the Elections Canada hotline, or search for election posters in their neighborhoods, but Internet access may not be reliable or accessible, and there may be other barriers, such as language.

Elections Canada expected between two and three million special votes to be cast. As of Friday at 5 p.m., it had issued almost 800,000. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is September 14 at 6 p.m.

Noor Din founded Human Endeavor, a Vaughan-based community organization that serves older people, many of whom are immigrants.

Anticipating questions from members, Din went through the process of requesting a ballot by mail. It took about an hour to navigate the site and a call to the Elections Canada hotline to resolve.

But you can already see the challenges that others will face, especially older people, or someone for whom English or French are it is not a first language.

A vote-by-mail kit includes the ballot and three envelopes that need to be assembled in the style of a Russian doll: the ballot goes in an inner envelope, that package goes in an outer envelope, which must be signed and dated, and everything goes in the prepaid mail envelope.

“There are four steps to completing this ballot,” Din said, and even with the help of a friend or family member, you could make a mistake and waste the ballot.

Din said he has already received calls from seniors trying to find out which voting centers will be open. Some locations that have hosted surveys in the past have chosen not to do so because the organizations administering them are concerned about COVID-19.

The mailing process could help vulnerable populations feel more secure staying home to vote. But voting in person is easier and poll workers are available to ask questions.

Obstacles with voting by mail create “a much higher cost to vote,” said Daniel Rubenson, a professor of politics at Ryerson University.

The “costs” Rubenson refers to include the time voters spend gathering information about the issues and processes required to cast a vote. Add in the need to track and remember a candidate’s name and the cost of voting starts to climb.

“We want everyone who wants to vote and is eligible to vote to be able to do so as easily as possible,” he said.

If you vote by mail, Elections Canada must receive your ballot before Election Day, September 20. You can mail or deliver it. at a local polling station. You can find more information in the Elections Canada website.


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