The next provincial general election finishes on November 30, 2015.
Not the way you are used to thinking of it, right?
You think the election happens on that day because, traditionally, that’s the day when most people vote.
Thing is, voting takes place on several days and pretty much always has. In Canada, elections sometimes took weeks and months according to Elections Canada. The rules to determine who can vote also changed over time. Some elections in the 19th century had different qualifications for voters in different provinces.
Through all that, the basic goal of the election was the same: be the one who had the most votes in the ballot box when the elections officials counted them up.
So if we know that November 30 is the last day someone can vote, when are other times people can vote?
Well, the Elections Act, 1991 sets a time for something called an advance poll. That happens “on [one] or more of the [seven] days immediately preceding the ordinary polling day” [s. 125] determined by the chief electoral officer.
In addition to November 30, then, we could also be voting on another day or several days before that. The earliest advance poll date would be November 23.
A voter “who has reason to believe that he or she will have difficulty voting at an advance poll or at the poll on polling day may apply to vote by special ballot.” [s. 86 (1)] The voter has to apply for a special ballot. Once he or she receives the kit, the voter can send it back and that’s all there is to it.
Special ballots are a bit squirrelly. That’s because the earliest date you can apply for a special ballot is “ not more than [four] weeks before the issue of the writ of election.” [s. 86 (4)] Problem is, we don’t know when the governor will issue the writ of election. What the chief electoral officer has taken to doing is assuming when that might happen and counting backwards from there.
For our purposes, let’s assume the writ will appear three weeks before the election date. That’s the minimum length of time allowed for the official campaign period in the Elections Act, 1991. With election day on November 30, the writ would appear on November 9. Count back four weeks from that and you get October 12. Since that’s Thanksgiving, the earliest date to apply for a special ballot would be Tuesday October 13.
And that, dear friends, is the date that every single campaign in every single district should plan for. They should plan to start collecting votes on October 13. Anyone they identify who might have a problem on polling should get all sorts of encouragement to get the special ballot vote in as soon as possible.
In other words, the political calculation should be that voting starts on October 13, 2015. Forget the official campaign period. That’s just a technicality. Every campaign should start collecting votes the day after Thanksgiving. They should plan to ramp up their get-out-the-vote effort on advance poll day and then, of course, they have the main day on November 30.
Putting ballots in the box may be the most important part of campaigning but there are other bits. That’s the part of the campaign where the team has to identify its supporters and to win over any converts they can.
If voting starts on October 13, then the campaigns should plan to do all the stuff to find voters that we used to associate with that three week period of the formal campaign some time before October 13. Count back three weeks as a minimum.
That would mean that the campaigns should be fully operational and hard at work no later than September 21.
That’s next Monday.
Look around next Monday and see what the political parties are doing. on that day. You will likely be able to make an important political calculation.