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Coronavirus: Electoral fraud during a pandemic not an issue for election officials in N.B., P.E.I.

BC NDP Leader John Horgan announces there will be a fall election as he speaks during a press conference in Langford, B.C., on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.
BC NDP Leader John Horgan announces there will be a fall election as he speaks during a press conference in Langford, B.C., on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The chief electoral officers of New Brunswick and P.E.I. told a House of Commons committee that they had no concerns about electoral fraud as thousands more voters choose to vote by mail or vote in person with masks on.

The House of Commons Procedure and House Affairs Committee is studying what, if any, rule changes will be required for a federal general election held in a time of pandemic.

At a meeting of the committee Tuesday, Conservative and Bloc Québécois MPs were particularly concerned that voter fraud may be easier as a result of the pandemic.

Click to play video 'Elections BC pandemic vote counting process' Elections BC pandemic vote counting process
Elections BC pandemic vote counting process – Oct 23, 2020

Conservative MP Cory Tochor also said he’s concerned that residents of Canada’s 11,000 long-term care facilities may have difficulty voting due to local public health orders if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a snap election this fall.

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“We’re going to have a vast number of Canadians disenfranchised by having to vote during a pandemic,” Tochor told the committee.

But the chief electoral officers of New Brunswick and P.E.I. echoed what Canada’s chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault told the Commons committee last week, which is that mail-in ballots do not present a risk of fraud.

Read more: U.S. election — A look at Trump’s claims about mail-in voting

And, just as Perreault did last week, Kimberly Poffenroth, the chief electoral officer of New Brunswick, told the committee the huge increase in mail-in ballots is more of an operational issue for election administrators.

In the just-concluded New Brunswick election, more than 13,000 voters cast their ballot by mail. By comparison, Poffenroth said, Elections New Brunswick might have to account for 100 or fewer mail-in ballots in any other general election.

Elections Saskatchewan said that 61,000 mail-in ballot packages were sent out to voters for that province’s general election, which was held Monday. In 2016, just 4,400 voted by mail in that year’s provincial election.

Click to play video 'Voting behind bars: Informing inmates a challenge for Saskatchewan advocates during pandemic' Voting behind bars: Informing inmates a challenge for Saskatchewan advocates during pandemic
Voting behind bars: Informing inmates a challenge for Saskatchewan advocates during pandemic – Oct 20, 2020

And in British Columbia, where New Democrat John Horgan won a majority in that province’s general election Saturday, about one-third of the ballots cast came in by mail — though Elections BC won’t begin to count those ballots for another 10 days.

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B.C.’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Bonnie Henry, will testify at the Commons committee Thursday about her experience in conducting an election safely during a pandemic. The Commons committee also plans to hear from the chief electoral officers in both B.C. and Saskatchewan before it provides some recommendations to the Trudeau government.