I had expected today to talk about the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. He or she was supposed to be announced before 9 p.m. Ottawa time Sunday. Yet as I write this at 8:30 Ottawa time (2:30 a.m. where I am), due to mechanical issues with the machines that opened the mail-in ballots there have been no results yet.
Needless to say, I’m tired and a little frustrated at the delays – though probably not as much as those working on the campaigns. Given that there are expected to be multiple rounds and I may be too tired to analyse the results when the do come in, I figured I would give you this post instead.
In the US there has been considerable controversy recently over what looks like it will be the increasing use of mail-in ballots for November’s presidential election. President Donald Trump has strongly stated he sees huge potential for fraud in the mail system.
I’m not sure how he arrived at that conclusion, but from what is happening in Canada tonight, I can see potential problems. How are they going to count those ballots?
My impression has been that Canada has always done a better election night job than in the USA, that we are better able to count the ballots and get the results to the people. But those are votes cast at polling stations.
In today’s leadership vote the ballots were all in sealed envelopes until today when it was time to count them. I would think the Americans would use a similar system.
Tonight’s issue was mechanical. The machines being used to open the 175,000 envelopes containing ballots cast in the leadership race developed problems, ripping about three per cent of them and damaging the ballots. Those had to be handled manually, which takes longer, because in a close race those few thousand votes can make the difference between winning and losing.
Think back to 2016. The US election was extremely close. A few thousand votes the other way in key states and Hillary Clinton would be the one running for re-election. It is expected this election will also be close.
If there are significant numbers of mail-in ballots, my guess is there is no way they will get them all counted on election night. And maybe not even the next day. Americans will not know who their next president will be on election night. It might wind up like 2000, when it took the courts to determine who won the election. (Don’t get me started on that one – it was an embarrassment to democracy.)
So maybe Donald Trump is right when he expresses concerns about postal balloting, even if his language is extreme and he offers no facts. If we Canadians can have a problem with a mail-in leadership vote, and we do these things well, imagine the chaos in the US in November.