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Counting of federal election mail ballots expected to continue until the weekend

Thousands of mail ballots still to be counted: 12 ridings started tally Friday
Ballots are still being counted in the 2021 federal election. (Black Press file photo)

The final federal election result may be delayed until the weekend — or even longer — because thousands of mail-in ballots have still to be counted.

Twelve ridings did not start counting mail ballots until Friday, Elections Canada confirmed Thursday.

In two tight races in B.C. — in Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Richmond Centre — postal votes could clinch the final result.

Officials started counting mail ballots on Friday morning in Nanaimo-Ladysmith, a three-way battle between the NDP, Tories and Greens, according to Elections Canada. Votes tallied on election night from polling stations suggest the NDP have a narrow lead in the B.C. riding.

Elections Canada had expected counting to have finished by Friday. But the count in some ridings might continue into the weekend, before a final result can be announced.

Officials have to check and verify mail-in ballots before starting to count them, to ensure they have been signed and people have not voted twice.

In some ridings, including Victoria, more than 10,000 mail ballots had to be verified before the count could start. A record number of postal votes was received at this election, some from people who did not want to vote in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elections Canada said in a statement that in more than 300 ridings counting has now finished.

Recounts are expected in a few ridings with very close results, such as Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley in Manitoba where the Conservatives edged out the Liberals by only 24 votes

Elections expert Dennis Pilon said mail-in ballots “had made a difference in a few races.”

Pilon, an associate professor of politics at York University, said in very close races parties might ask for a recount, particularly if “spoiled” ballots were a matter of dispute.

He said scrutineers from each party carefully monitor how counts are conducted to ensure every vote they receive is tallied.

They pay particular attention to “spoiled” ballots, disregarded because they have been improperly filled out, or are difficult to interpret, in races with a photo-finish.

—Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press

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