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Newfoundland and Labrador election to be mail-in only - might disenfranchise Indigenous voters

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Newfoundland and Labrador’s upcoming will be a Canadian first: voters will exclusively be casting their ballots via mail.

What's the deal? Well, the situation broke down in mid-February around the scheduled election date. A surge of COVID cases caused the province’s chief electoral officer (CEO) to postpone voting in the Avalon Peninsula, where a significant portion of the province's population (including St. John's) resides. Shortly after, all in-person voted was cancelled with a new deadline of March 12th set for mail-in-only voting.

“As a result of this evening’s change to Newfoundland and Labrador’s Public Health Alert Level, I am suspending in-person voting for all 40 provincial electoral districts. In-person voting will not be rescheduled,” said CEO Bruce Chaulk. “The election will now shift exclusively to voting by mail, using special ballots. I urge anyone interested in voting in this election to apply for a Special Ballot to ensure your democratic participation."

For Newfoundlanders looking to vote, the following information is necessary and must be submitted on their Special Ballot application:

  • the name of the applicant and the current address of the applicant's residence in the Province

  • the applicant's mailing address

  • the applicant's date of birth

  • proof of the applicant's identity by including:

  • the name of the applicant and the current address of the applicant's residence in the Province

  • the applicant's mailing address

Afterward, the completed application (with accompanying documentation) must be returned to Elections Newfoundland and Labrador before March 12th using one of the following methods:

  • By emailing a scanned copy of the application and supporting documents to the Special Ballot team at

  • By faxing applications and supporting documentation to (709) 729-5671, district returning office.

Not all are keen on the mail-in voting exclusivity. Patricia Johnson-Castle, the NDP candidate for Torngat Mountains, has said that voters in remote communities on Labrador’s north coast may face delays in getting their ballots back to the provincial capital by the deadline, in addition to the fact that many do not have home phones or adequate internet service to request a ballot. Mail regularly takes two or three weeks to arrive to these communities from St. John’s. Many in her riding are indigenous and cannot peak English.

“When you’re voting in person, the poll clerk, generally, is bilingual and is able to help unilingual people vote,” she said. It’s not clear whether mail-in ballots will be available in other languages, she said. “This is voter suppression,” Johnson-Castle said.

The Progressive Conservatives have asked the Liberals to join them and the NDP in a meeting with Chaulk to address such concerns about the on-going election.

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