OTTAWA — After a 36-day campaign, millions of Canadians will get to decide Monday which federal party will govern the country through the fourth wave of COVID-19 and beyond.
Here are five things to know about Monday's vote:
— There are just over 27 million eligible voters. Almost 6 million of them have already voted during four days of advance polls and another 1.2 million have received special ballots to vote by mail or at Elections Canada offices.
That leaves some 20 million who are eligible to vote in person at their local polling stations on Monday. Based on voter turnout of 67 per cent in 2019, probably only 13 million or so of those folks will actually end up casting ballots.
— People who requested a special ballot won't be allowed to vote in person, with limited exceptions.
Those who didn't return their special ballots can drop them off Monday at their local polling locations, or have someone else do it for them.
People who didn't receive a requested special ballot kit or lost it, may swear an oath to that effect at their local polling station and will be allowed to vote.
However, through bar codes on the outer envelopes containing the mail-in ballots, election officials will be able to tell if anyone who swears such an oath did, in fact, vote by mail. In those cases, the postal ballot will not be counted.
Anyone found to have intentionally tried to vote more than once faces a hefty fine or even jail time.
Voters who did not take advantage of advance polls or special ballots but who now find themselves forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19 will not be able to vote.
Elections Canada is asking that anyone who thinks they may have COVID-19 or has tested positive to stay home.
— Ballots cast during advance polls, as well as some special ballots — those mailed or dropped off at Elections Canada offices by Canadians who are outside their ridings or out of the country — will be counted Monday night, along with all the ballots cast in-person that day.
— But most special ballots — those mailed or dropped off at Elections Canada offices by Canadians voting in their ridings — will not be counted on Monday. Just over 1 million of those have been issued.
In order to give election officials time to ensure no one votes twice, counting of those ballots won't even begin until Tuesday and Elections Canada has warned it could take up to five days to complete.
— And that means Canadians may not know Monday night which party has won the election or whether it will form a minority or majority government.
In a contest that appears to be a dead heat between Liberals and Conservatives, it may well be impossible to declare a winner until results in all 338 ridings are finalized.
Yet the outcome in any number of close-fought ridings — where the mail-in votes still to be counted are greater than the number of votes separating the first and second-place candidates on Monday night — could well remain up in the air for several days.
How many might still be in play after Monday is impossible to predict but it could potentially be dozens of ridings.
Consider that an average of almost 3,000 special ballots have been issued per riding. Now consider that in 2019, 58 ridings were won by margins of less than 3,000 votes.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2021.
Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press