N.B. chief electoral officer submits list of recommendations to iron out wrinkles in pandemic voting
HALIFAX -- New Brunswick's chief electoral officer has made recommendations following that province's 2020 provincial election -- a snap election during a pandemic that had many challenges.
It was an election unlike any before, with accusations from Liberal leader Kevin Vickers that it was "reckless" to have it during a global pandemic.
It was just 28 days long, but it was a "perfect storm" says Kim Poffenroth, New Brunswick's chief electoral officer.
"With a short election period, and an unscheduled election itself, (it) led to some challenges for our returning office staff, just getting set up," Poffenroth said. "Many were without internet and phones up to 10 days after the election started."
With municipal elections in the province in just two months, Poffenroth has listed a number of recommendations and presented them in front of a legislative committee on Friday.
One of the recommendations is that any snap election be no shorter than 38 days.
She also doesn't have the authority to postpone or change the date of an election and she doesn't believe she should be the one to make that call -- but someone should.
"That is something that I'm in discussions with government," Poffenroth said. "So that we can have a very clear process set out ahead of time in the event something like what happened in Newfoundland, that we know what steps to take as opposed to having to make those decisions on the fly."
In Newfoundland and Labrador, a general election has been called, but in-person voting has been cancelled. It's now all mail-in ballots.
In New Brunswick, these recommendations have been made ahead of the municipal elections, which are scheduled for May.
And while it won't pose the same challenges, voting will still undoubtedly happen during a global pandemic.
"I asked her directly about that," said Green Party Leader David Coon. "Was she prepared to go forward with simply mail-in and phone voting if that was all that could possibly happen under the circumstances? She said no."
Poffenroth says telephone voting should be a last resort, but it will be available for those in quarantine or who have health concerns.
And, they've made changes to the mail-in voting system to make it easier.
"They should look at all options - all the options - if this, what would we do?" said Liberal MLA Guy Arseneault.
A government spokesperson says the province is open to legislative amendments to ensure the municipal elections are safe.