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.
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.
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.
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.
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