24 August 2007

SOL Special Ballot update: Voting started Monday!

Turns out the eagle-eyed e-mailer wasn't so right after all.

Turns out too, your humble e-scribbler needs to check some fine details sometimes.

Advance voting by special ballot began on Monday, under a set-up proposed by former chief electoral officer Chuck Furey (see story below) and passed in the House of Assembly in June of this year.

The Elections Act, 1991, as amended last spring, allows for anyone otherwise qualified to vote in the province to apply for a special ballot now , get a kit from Elections NL and then write in the name of the candidate, the name of the candidate and party or just the name of the political party he or she wants to cast a vote for.

Who might be affected by this new voting method?

Well, anyone qualified to vote. If you are a "Canadian citizen 18 years of age or more on polling day is qualified to vote at an election if he or she is ordinarily resident in the province immediately preceding polling day," then you can vote.

So like remittance workers who take the Fort Mac express but maintain a permanent residence in the province?

Yep. They're in.

But basically, anyone can vote early provided that, as a minimum, they have a personal reason to believe he or she won't be able to vote on the actual polling day on October 9.

And here's another fun piece of work: under the Act, those ballots will be collected and can be counted before polling day.

The election campaign has been on for months. It got a big boost with the Hebron announcement on Wednesday.

But it will be really interesting to see how many special ballots are cast, let alone how many are cast before the campaign officially starts sometime in mid-September.

We'll know that sometime after October 9.


The Telegram
November 28, 2006

Voting window could widen to accommodate Alberta exodus

Rob Antle
The Telegram

The province may be losing its workers, but it's hoping not to lose their votes.

Elections officials are proposing changes that would allow voters to cast their ballots nearly two months in advance of the 2007 provincial election, to accommodate Newfoundlanders working out west.

"The idea is to try to make it as flexible and as open and as transparent (as possible), and to give everybody the full opportunity and the fair opportunity to cast their ballots," chief electoral officer Chuck Furey told The Telegram.

In 2004, the Williams administration passed legislation setting fixed election dates every four years. The next provincial election will be held Oct. 9, 2007.

By law, the premier must officially ask the lieutenant-governor to dissolve the legislature and drop the election writs a minimum of 21 days before polling day.

Currently, those who can't vote on election day can cast an absentee ballot - called a special ballot - during that 21-day time period.

Furey said his proposal would allow voters to cast those special ballots up to four weeks before the writ is officially dropped.

"We're trying to say, look, if you've got a fixed-date election, why are we limiting it to 21 days, if we have such a migratory and transient population now? They're coming and going - let's try to capture people and give them a full opportunity to vote by
adding that extra four weeks."

The proposal is currently awaiting a decision by the province.

By law, anyone over 18 can vote in a provincial election as long as they have a fixed address in Newfoundland and Labrador.

There are no official figures on how many transient workers commute to Alberta or other destinations for work while still maintaining a home in Newfoundland.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Statistics Agency does not compile such data, saying it would be nearly impossible to gather and maintain.

But there is ample anecdotal evidence confirming the trend.

An estimated 9,000 people attended an Alberta job fair held in St. John's last month.

Air Canada established a daily direct flight between St. John's and Fort Mc-Murray this year to meet the demand of workers travelling back and forth.

And Canadian North is operating weekly private charter flights linking Deer Lake, St. John's and northern Alberta.

Vincent Pratt, from the Triton area, is one of the commuters using that service.

In a recent interview with Transcontinental Media, Pratt estimated that more than half of the 2,000 people employed at his work camp in northern Alberta are from Newfoundland.

Net out-migration increased to more than 4,100 this year, according to provincial figures.

The most recent provincial population estimate is under 510,000, a drop of about 70,000 since 1991.