Alternate and Write-In Ballots: Constitutional and Policy Considerations

Alternate and Write-In Ballots: Constitutional and Policy Considerations

The most reported statistic on election night, apart from the vote count, is the percentage of eligible citizens who cast a ballot. Voter turnout is frequently cited as a measure of the health of our democracy. In recent years policy makers and Chief Electoral Officers have dedicated themselves to creating multiple ‘voting opportunities’ in order to make voting more accessible to the electorate. Since 2007, Newfoundland and Labrador has allowed an elector to vote up to four weeks before an election is called and to do so by writing into a blank space, on an absentee ballot, his or her party of choice. This practice of pre-writ voting, and voting-by-party, is currently the subject of a constitutional challenge before the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court. The ultimate decision could have an impact for election law in all Canadian jurisdictions. This article looks at the situation across Canada as well as the specifics of the Newfoundland case.