Elections Nova Scotia reports big increase in early voter turnout so far

Click to play video: 'Early voting opens in Nova Scotia election' Early voting opens in Nova Scotia election
Wednesday marked the first time voters in Nova Scotia were able to cast a ballot before election day. Amber Fryday has more – Jul 21, 2021

As the 41st Nova Scotia election campaign ramps up, statistics released by Elections Nova Scotia suggest there’s been a big jump in people signing up to vote early since the last election.

Even before the election was called, Elections Nova Scotia has been encouraging people to vote early and use mail-in ballots to stay safe during COVID-19.

Read more: Elections Nova Scotia will encourage provincial voters to vote early, mail in ballots

In a release Friday, Elections Nova Scotia said that of July 29, a total of 12,300 early votes had been cast — nearly three times the number of early votes cast by this point in the last election.

Elections Nova Scotia says 9,741 votes have been cast so far at the returning office continuous polls in the 55 electoral districts. At the same point during the last provincial election in 2017, 3,977 votes had been cast at the returning office continuous polls.

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Read more: COVID-19 and Nova Scotia’s first summer election since 2003: What does it all mean

And Elections Nova Scotia has so far received 2,559 applications for write-in ballots for this election. By this time in 2017, 334 votes had been cast by write-in ballot.

Elections Nova Scotia has previously said it expected a large uptake in early voting options, based on voter behaviour during past pandemic-era provincial elections.

Naomi Shelton, spokesperson for Election Nova Scotia, said they were prepared for an influx of early voting for the Aug. 17 election.

She said that due to the increase, the chief electoral officer can order that early write-in ballots be counted before election day. However, it’s still possible there could be delays in getting the election results.

Voter turnout

A rare summer election — the first since 2003 — coupled with COVID-19 has some experts worried about what this could mean for voter turnout.

In the last provincial election in 2017, just under 54 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot, and there is some concern that voter turnout could drop below 50 per cent this time.

Read more: Some worry Nova Scotia's voter turnout could drop below 50%

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Lori Turnbull, a political science professor at Dalhousie University, told Global News earlier this week that it’s still unclear if the increase in early voter turnout necessarily translates to higher voter engagement.

“I hope this is good news for turnout but I am not sure,” said Turnbull, noting that it could just mean that those who are already planning to vote are doing it early this year.

— with files from Alicia Draus

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