Voters will see a few changes as Nova Scotians go to the polls during a pandemic.
The number of available seats has increased from 51 to 55 due to the redrawing of the riding map.
Queens will now have its own representative after the former riding of Queens-Shelburne was split in the realignment.
The director of policy and communications for Elections Nova Scotia, Naomi Shelton, says voters will have a variety of choices on how to cast their ballot in the upcoming provincial election.
“Voters are encouraged to vote early and vote safely. They can apply for a write-in ballot if they wish to vote by mail or vote at home. They can also vote safely, in-person with COVID-19 precautions in place at all voting locations and those would be very similar to what you would experience in your community at a local retail experience,” said Shelton.
Those precautions include wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and hand sanitizing protocols.
Shelton says Nova Scotia is prepared to safely conduct an election during COVID-19 by watching how the vote was carried out in neighbouring provinces.
“We’ve been able to learn from those lessons learned and gain knowledge from those best practices that those other provinces have had so that we feel that we are ready to deliver a safe election here in Nova Scotia,” said Shelton. “We’ve done contingency planning to look at risks and mitigations for those risks, in case we faced an emergency situation like Newfoundland.”
Given the uptake in other provincial elections, Elections Nova Scotia is also preparing for a larger than normal number of mail-in ballots during this 41st general election.
In fact, a winner may not be declared on election night.
Shelton says if ballot counting is predicted to go late into the night, Chief Electoral Officer Richard Temporaly is ready to pause counting at midnight to allow election workers time to rest before resuming the count the following day.
“That’s not been the case previously in Nova Scotia, although it’s not uncommon in other provinces for the vote count to go on for more than one night. But we want people to be aware that that is a possibility this time,” said Shelton. “We are doing everything we can to be efficient with our vote count and to mitigate those risks but we wanted to be up front to let people know that there is a possibility that that could happen. We won’t know until election night when we’re looking at the volume of votes.”
Advanced polls opened Wednesday despite the fact some ridings have yet to nominate all their candidates.
Shelton says that’s not uncommon and people wishing to vote early can simply vote for the party and the vote will count once their candidate is announced.
Potential candidates have until July 28 to submit their nomination papers.
Voters who are registered with Elections Nova Scotia can vote in person by bringing a photo ID along with the voter registration card, which should be mailed out the week of Aug. 2.
Reported by Ed Halverson
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