Canadians watching a U.S. election often express a common topic of humourous envy and mild frustration — the fact American voters get “I Voted” stickers, while Canadians do not.
But there appears to be little envy this year for any part of the American democratic process as Canadians and the world wait with bated breath for a result from the tumultuous campaign.
Elections Canada officials said on Twitter they’ve been receiving an influx of messages from Canadians expressing gratitude for the independent administrator of domestic federal elections.
Many of those messages acknowledge that while Elections Canada is not perfect, its track record of running safe, secure federal elections that are counted quickly is something not to be taken for granted.
Natasha Gauthier, spokesperson for Elections Canada, said the agency’s tweet on Nov. 3 providing information on how the independent body operates plus two further tweets on Nov. 5 thanking Canadians for the outpouring of support might just be their most popular social media posts yet.
Even south of the border, Google searches for the phrase “Elections Canada” spiked during the evening of the U.S. election just as results began to roll in, hitting peak popularity later that night.
That interest came in from nearly all corners of the U.S., including Vermont and North Dakota, states with strong early support for Democratic candidate and former vice president Joe Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump, respectively.
“It’s very gratifying to be on the receiving end of all this love, but we’re not an organization that ever rests on its laurels,” said Gauthier, noting officials there are hard at work making preparations in case they need to run a federal election during the coronavirus pandemic.
As for those coveted “I Voted” stickers? Gauthier says officials aren’t ruling them out for Canadians, but haven’t landed on any firm decision yet.
The interest comes as Election Night in the U.S. stretches into Election Week as was expected given the significant number of mail-in and advance ballots cast amid a surge in voter turnout and the coronavirus pandemic, with 50 different sets of election law and administration of voting — one in each state.
Counting continues in several key swing state races including Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina, and President Donald Trump has repeatedly launched false claims of election fraud with absolutely no evidence to back up those accusations.
Tensions are running high as Americans await the final tallies from those early legal ballots, which are set to determine the outcome of a presidential race that has so far been too close to call.
The Associated Press, which Global News relies on for its U.S. election calls, is currently projecting Biden with 264 Electoral College votes from the states where he confidently appears to be winning.
Trump is currently trailing with a projected 214 electoral votes.
The magic number is 270 Electoral College votes needed to secure the presidency.
However, a final determination could still be weeks away as close projections and the tallies underwriting them get certified state-by-state to lock in those results.
As counting continued through Thursday, Canadian leaders have remained silent, as is normal until a result emerges, though one parliamentary committee spent part of the day hearing from experts about how a federal campaign could be conducted safely here in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
The powerful House of Commons procedure and house affairs committee heard from the chief medical officers for both Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, which recently wrapped up provincial elections.
Both said their provinces set up protocols around things like the wearing of personal protective equipment, physical distancing and collecting contact tracing details for voters and were able to run their elections safely, with no outbreaks reported as a result of polling operations.
“This pandemic is a marathon,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab with Saskatchewan’s ministry of health. “I think essential work including elections probably need to happen.”
His New Brunswick counterpart, Dr. Jennifer Russell, said while the recommendations on how to vote safely may change based on community transmission of the coronavirus, the ultimate decision on whether to hold an election remains with political leaders.
“Our goal with public health is really to be able to mitigate the risks for any kind of situation,” she said.
“All we can do is make the risks as low as we possibly can.”