Elections Manitoba is expecting faster results on election night Oct. 3, and has laid out a timeline that appears to be roughly twice as fast as the drawn-out affair experienced in Alberta last week.
The independent agency is planning to use electronic vote-counting machines, also known as tabulators, in most locations for the first time. Voters will still use paper ballots, which will be kept in case a recount is needed, but the counting will be done by machine instead of by hand.
If all goes well, and subject to any surprises, the bulk of the results could be counted and made public within an hour to 90 minutes after polls close, Shipra Verma, Elections Manitoba’s chief electoral officer, said in a recent interview.
“That’s our goal,” Verma said.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed. We are continuously testing and training our staff.”
In Alberta, results were still trickling in 90 minutes after polls closed, and it was another 90 minutes before the United Conservative Party was declared the winner. Even at midnight, there were still roughly 20 ridings that had yet to be decided.
While Alberta used tabulators only for advance polls, Manitoba is to see them used for election-day polls as well. There will be some exceptions — such as small polling stations where the number of votes doesn’t justify the expense of a machine — but a majority of ballots cast are to be counted by a tabulator, Verma said.
The counting of advance votes is also expected to be quicker. Those ballots can take a long time to count by hand, as more and more people have been voting in advance in recent years.
The amount of people voting in advance has now reached about 25 per cent, Verma said, so electronic counting should be a big help.
There are always potential hiccups, Verma added. There are backup machines in case some don’t work, and hand-counting would be another backup plan, if and where needed.
The machines being used by Manitoba are similar to ones already used in other jurisdictions including municipal elections in Winnipeg. They are not connected to the internet.
Faster results should be more encouraging for voters, one political analyst said.
“There’s an election, people are excited, they want to see the results,” said Royce Koop, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba.
“And so if it can go, faster rather than waiting up until one in the morning, I think there is a democratic value to that.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2023