March 10, 2021
Bruce Chaulk, Chief Electoral Officer
39 Hallett Crescent
NL A1B 4C4
Dear Mr. Chaulk,
We are writing you as concerned candidates for the districts of Torngat Mountains, Lake Melville, and Labrador West. Ballots have begun to arrive to voters in our districts. We are encouraging our constituents to fill them out and return them as soon as possible. Though there are still many voters who have yet to receive their ballots.
We appreciate yesterday's announcement that stated ballots now must be received by ElectionsNL in St. John’s by March 25th. This extension acknowledges to need to make accommodations, but we are extremely concerned that it is a “received by” deadline rather than a “postmarked” deadline. A postmarked deadline ensures weather and other delays that may affect Canada Post do not penalize the voter.
Winter weather (in Labrador, particularly) is unpredictable. It is very possible that a snowstorm could delay mail service in any region of Labrador during the week of the 25th. It would alleviate the anxiety being felt by many Labradorians now if March 25th would be a postmarked deadline for Labrador districts.
Labradorians are aware that the level of service delivery in our region tends to be slower because of interruptions caused by weather and limited access to infrastructure. For example, no flights could land in communities of Torngat Mountains district between Tuesday and Friday of last week caused by winter storms, meaning no ballots were delivered until March 8th.
As ballots arrive, more and more constituents have reached out to us that some ballots were sent to Labrador by regular mail rather than Xpress mail. This is troubling as it takes 6 business days for something to arrive in Nain from St. John’s when marked as Xpress; while regular mail takes 11 business days for mail to be received in Happy Valley - Goose Bay from St. John’s, and 12 business days from St. John’s to Nain. All mail to Labrador is first sent to Happy Valley - Goose Bay where it is sorted again and then sent out to its destination. Since we now know that some kits did not get in the mail until March 3rd that means it could take until at least March 19th for ballots to arrive in Labrador. We do not know what portion of ballots sent to Labrador were sent by regular mail. Under the new deadline of March 25th, ballots would need to be immediately returned to Canada Post. If there were any weather delays on the week of March 22nd then ballots from Labrador will end up being excluded.
No one who registered for their mail-in ballot should be denied their right to vote in this election, especially not due to delayed mail deliveries because of winter weather. The expected temperatures in March make snowstorms even more likely than February in Labrador. During this campaign, we have already seen 2 weeks where flights within Labrador have been severely impacted by weather. We cannot not take this chance. We need a deadline decided by postmarking rather than being received in St. John’s.
We know that the circumstances of the outbreak have put immense pressure on your organization. We understand not wanting further delays to the election. However the purpose of an election is to have citizens decide who represents them and the concerns of their communities in the governance of our province. Without a deadline for ballots to be postmarked, Labradorians will be disproportionately excluded from this election.
A small change can ensure this election is significantly more accessible to Labradorians.
Jordan Brown, NDP Candidate, Labrador West; Patricia Johnson-Castle, NDP Candidate, Torngat Mountains; Amy Norman, NDP Candidate, Lake Melville