Here's when Sask. mail-in ballots will be counted
REGINA -- Across Saskatchewan, the polls are closed but the fate of many hopeful MLA’s remains undecided.
Some of the province's tightest electoral races will be decided by mail in votes, but a final count is not expected before Nov. 7.
According to Elections Saskatchewan, by the end of Election Day, 385,461 ballots from advance voting polls, election day polls and personal care facility polls had been counted.
That accounts for roughly 47 per cent of the 841,807 eligible voters in the province, but that is just the first preliminary count of three total counts.
More-than 61,000 voters were mailed vote by mail (VBM) packages before the Oct. 15 deadline, of those, 40,214 had been returned and accepted when polls closed on Oct. 26 at 8 p.m.
Those returned VBM ballots will be counted in the Second Preliminary Count, which starts two days after the election, on Oct. 28.
Elections Saskatchewan will set up 26 counting stations in multiple counting halls at the Delta hotel. Counting will run from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day until all VBM ballots, received by Oct. 26, have been counted.
Chief Electoral Officer, Michael Boda anticipates the process could take up to three days.
There are still more than 20,000 VBM ballots which have not been returned. VBM ballots have to be in the mail before Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. but Elections Saskatchewan will accept VBM ballots until Nov. 5 at noon.
The remaining VBM ballots, along with special ballots, absentee ballots and extraordinary voting ballots as part of the Final Count on Nov. 7.
“We know the importance of completing the count for all 61 constituencies, but we are very much aware of the races where the margin of votes currently is less than the total number of vote by mail ballots still to count,” Boda said. “These races will be our focus starting on Wednesday as we know the candidates in these constituencies are anxiously awaiting the final results.”
WHAT IT MEANS IN CLOSE RACES
In Regina, 10 of 12 constituencies have potential VBM ballot totals larger than the vote margin separating the two leading candidates.
In Regina University, after the first preliminary count, incumbent Saskatchewan Party candidate Tina Beaudry-Mellor leads two-time NDP challenger Aleana Young by just 178 votes.
There were 1,814 VBM ballots sent out in Regina University. As of Oct. 26 at 8 p.m., 1,371 have been returned and accepted. They will be tallied as part of the second preliminary count starting Oct. 28. That leaves 443 VBM ballots which could be received up until Nov. 5 at noon, to be included in the final count. In 2016, Beaudry-Mellor beat Young by 417 votes.
There were 2,674 VBM ballots requested in the Regina Pasqua constituency. Saskatchewan Party incumbent Muhammad Fiaz leads the NDP’s Bhajan Brar by 576 after the first count.
A total of 1,872 VBM ballots will be counted for Regina Pasqua in the second count, but 802 VBM ballots in the constituency have yet to be returned. Fiaz won the seat by 298 votes in 2016.
The wait is hard for candidates who have already fought a long, pandemic campaign.
NDP Sally Housser NDP Campaign Press Secretary says her party made a concerted effort to encourage mail in voting early.
“The sense that, you can’t control it either. It’s not like you can get out there and knock on more doors or change it. It’s in the mail,” Housser said. “People right now are remaining hopeful and spending the time today thanking their volunteers and their campaign team and waiting for the future.”