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Nova Scotia could see limited internet voting for military with proposed changes

Number of changes coming to Nova Scotia’s Elections Act, including online voting for military
WATCH: Elections N.S. is being given the power to partner with the Canadian Armed Forces to work on making online voting an option for deployed troops. Jeremy Keefe has more.

Limited internet voting for the military and financial reimbursement for candidate expenses related to family care feature in a series of proposed changes to Nova Scotia’s Elections Act tabled Friday.

Justice Minister Mark Furey said the changes would reduce barriers to running in elections and make voting easier for members of the military who are serving elsewhere in Canada or overseas.

Under the changes, candidates would be reimbursed for extra expenses such as child and spousal care, elder care or care for a person with a disability.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia changing rules to stop politicians from jumping between levels of government

“Public service is foundational to our democracy, and my hope is that these changes will reduce barriers to running, especially for women who are primary care givers in so many elements of their family,” Furey said.

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Furey said there is no cap on the expenses in the legislation, adding that chief electoral officer Richard Temporale would determine what expenses are reasonable, as he now does for other electoral expenses.

Temporale said his office will come out with draft guidelines concerning the expenses within the next couple of months.

However, he said getting internet voting ready for military members only, would take longer, citing a need for testing to ensure the system is secure. His goal is to have internet voting ready for an election on or after April 1, 2021.

He said in the 2017 provincial election, 210 members of the military applied for ballots through the mail, but only 10 were actually returned and counted.

READ MORE: N.S. Premier Stephen McNeil not planning for an election in 2020

Other amendments would allow Temporale to explore the possibility of wider electronic voting and make it optional for voters to state their gender.

Candidates would also have to state a rationale for seeking a judicial recount, and a candidate or their spouse would be allowed to vote in the electoral district where they are running during a byelection, even if they don’t live there.

Claudia Chender, the NDP’s house leader, reacted positively to the changes, saying it was “about time” that some financial allowances were made to assist all candidates and women in particular.

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“For female candidates who we know statistically bear the brunt of both child care and scheduling for child care, it’s absolutely important in terms of levelling the playing field that they have the ability to offset some of those expenses while running a campaign,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2020.