03 November 2009

And then another EA steps up…

Sandy Collins, former executive assistant to Paul Oram is the provincial Conservative candidate in Terra Nova in the by-election yet to be called.

Orange Update: Robyn Brentnall is the New Democrat in the running.

Red Update: The Liberal candidate is John Baird. He was elected in a nomination fight on October 17.

Two things:

1. Remember what your humble e-scribbler said about a party that can only offer up former executive assistants as candidates, and,

2. The people in Terra Nova district can vote today by special ballot even though no election has been called.

Every person can request a special ballot including:

  • an elector who has reason to believe that he/she will have difficulty voting on polling day perhaps due to work or personal commitments;
  • a student who is in attendance at a recognized educational institution either inside or outside the Province;
  • an elector temporarily residing outside the Province for a continuous period of less than 6 months who is unable to attend at either the advance or regular poll;
  • an elector who is incarcerated in a correctional institution or in detention at the Waterford Hospital;
  • a patient in hospital who will be unable to attend either the advance or regular poll.

All you have to do is contact the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, otherwise known as Elections Newfoundland and Labrador.

There’s a form to complete and send in. You can find it in pdf format here.

They’ll send you back a voter kit which you can use to cast your vote right now.

But there’s no election yet, you may be thinking.

Doesn’t matter.

Under section 86(4) of the Elections Act, voters who meet those criteria above can ask for a special ballot no more than four weeks before an election or by-election is called. Well, you and the rest of the world don’t know when the thing will be called but we know when the earliest date is that it could be called.

That would be the day Paul Oram threw his teddy in the corner. Any of you who knew Paul was going could have already voted.

But since the rest of us found out later on, you should be able to get a ballot and vote right now.

There is no legal reason for the Chief Electoral Officer (former Tory party president Paul Reynolds) to refuse you the opportunity to vote under section 86(4).

And don’t worry if you don't like the party but not the candidate. [Updated to reflect that all candidates are now in place, barring any independents]

Under section 86.4, you can write in the name of the political party you want to vote for instead of the name of a particular person.

Voting is your right.

Now that’s pretty much the same thing said in a post about the Straits, but you know, it is not very often people get to protest a completely foolish electoral law twice in the space of a month or so. In the Straits, people were a bit fried so a protest vote was possible.

In Terra Nova, townies may not be able to judge which way the local wind is blowing.

This time everyone can take advantage of the oddest election rules in the civilised world. Only in Newfoundland and Labrador could you get to vote before an election has been called.

Vote early for the candidate of your choice.

But vote.



John Hogan said...

It is 4 weeks today I think that Oram resigned. How could you have been allowed to vote by special ballot on the day he resigned?

"An application to vote by special ballot may be made...beginning not more than 4 weeks before the issue of the writ of election."

If the election was tomorrow, voting on the he resigned would have been more than 4 weeks.

Just curious about how you are reading that section differently than I am.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Amendments to the Elections Act made in 2007 created a situation where it is possible to vote in an election before the seat is vacated and before the election is called.

If you read the act (links are in the post), you will see it says as you quoted.

However, there is also provision that the by-elections must be called no more than 60 days after the vacancy occurs. That's about 30 days from now.

In other words we have already passed over the date in which it is possible to vote in an undeclared by-election. The act has other sections that allow for voting in the absence of declared candidates.

All of that works against any interpretation that allows voting only after an election has been called.

If you read the Act as it is presented and with all the bits and pieces considered, it is actually possible to vote before a seat is event vacant since we can actually determine in some cases both the earliest possible date on which to call an election and the latest.

As foolish as it sounds, that is the impact of the amendments made since 2003. Evidently they were not thought through.

I don't have it in front of me but I've posted on it before "I am my own electoral grandpa" and nottawa and I believe labradore have also written about it.

Mark said...

John's right - you can vote within four weeks prior, but not before, therefore if Oram's resignation was more than four weeks ago then you could not have voted on the day he quit. Nevertheless, these special ballot provisions are asinine. As I have pointed out before, this section of the Act is ripe for some sort of a legal challenge.

On a related note, there's also some ambiguity with respect to how the special ballot provisions interact with the the residency requirement. Hypothetitcally, you could have voted three weeks ago under the presumption that you would be living in the district at the time of the byelection, but then if you subsequently don't end up living there, you've already voted. It's weird.

WJM said...

therefore if Oram's resignation was more than four weeks ago then you could not have voted on the day he quit.

But there also would have been no way for you to know that you couldn't have voted at that time! Because, hey, if Danny had called the by-election the next day, you would have been able to vote nearly a month before the seat was even vacant!

Edward G. Hollett said...

Absolutely Wally. The language is so vague in spots that since you know the earliest possible date, you could argue for the right to vote before a seat is even vacated.

Mark said...

Fun idea - seek an injunction demanding the electoral office date stamp all special ballots received before the day the byelection was called.

Edward G. Hollett said...

The potential for a complete mess here cannot be under-estimated.

It is similar to the mail-in ballot system in St. John's in that it is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

All the individual changes made since 2003 appear - individually - to have some merit. However, they were implemented without any sense of the larger issues involved or how these things would interact with one another.

Another example: the by-election called but not announced immediately in 2007. The requirements of the statute on fixed election dates jammed up against the shortened time for vacancies.

Now on this last one, what we had after 2003 was a cosmetic change. The original changed from the early 1990s set a delay of no more than 90 days. This was the first time there was a time limit on vacancies. Chopping 30 days off that did nothing to advance the cause of anything of substance. Instaed it created problems because of the ad hoc way the whole package of changes was made.

I hesitate to call them reforms since reforms ought to have a positive outcome or ought to be intended to have a positive outcome. Some of the changes made after 2003 were superficial or cosmetic.

WJM said...

Another example: the by-election called but not announced immediately in 2007. The requirements of the statute on fixed election dates jammed up against the shortened time for vacancies.

Despite the fact that other provinces' laws, and I believe the federal legislation, concerning by-election timing, make specific provisions for when a vacancy occurs late in the life of a parliament.

But for some reason the Great, Oxford-Educated Lawyer absolutely HATES looking at the practice in other jurisdictions.