A record 1.2 million mail-in ballots were requested for the 2021 federal election, but data from Elections Canada shows 202,835 were not returned in time to be counted.
Elections Canada says there is typically a gap between the number of mail-in ballots that go out and the number that come back every year. In the 2019 federal election, only 55 per cent of the domestic mail-in ballots and 61 per cent of international mail-in ballots were returned on time. The remainder were either returned late or not at all.
In an email to Black Press Media, Elections Canada said it could not speculate on why.
Mail-in ballots are issued directly from local Elections Canada offices for the riding they were requested from and are sent out within 72 hours of requests being approved.
Elections Canada said the pandemic did not impact its ability to mail ballots to voters, although it did impact its ability to set up in-person polling locations.
“Returning officers had to identify spaces that could accommodate physical distancing, and had to choose from a smaller pool of available spaces, overall,” Elections Canada spokesperson Matthew McKenna said.
Seven of the top 10 ridings for mail-in ballots were in B.C. and three in Ontario.
The discrepancy in ballots returned had some raising questions of voter disenfranchisement. But Kyle Braid, senior vice president of Ipsos Vancouver said despite hiccups, the biggest barrier to voting in the election was a lack of interest.
“When we do the analysis of this, it’s going to be more about people not feeling like the election mattered to them, the issues didn’t resonate with them — that’s going to be much more of a factor than things like it was difficult to vote on election day, concerns about safety and voting in a COVID election, or any issues that happened with the administration of mail-in votes.”
Voter turnout for the election was roughly 59 per cent, down from 67 per cent in the 2019 election.
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