Three hours and counting… Elections Manitoba explains why Kirkfield Park result was so late

Elections Manitoba makes no apology for taking three-and-a-half hours to report the final results in the super-tight Kirkfield Park byelection in which the Tories barely hung onto their seat.

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Elections Manitoba makes no apology for taking three-and-a-half hours to report the final results in the super-tight Kirkfield Park byelection in which the Tories barely hung onto their seat.

As Manitobans eagerly watched the see-saw battle between the governing party, NDP and Liberals after the polls closed at 8 p.m., the Elections Manitoba website was beset with glitches, forcing the non-partisan government agency to acknowledge the problems in a tweet on its Twitter account.

It took more than an hour for the agency to announce results of the final four polls, which were the advance votes.

Klein won by just 160 votes. He received 2,356 votes, New Democrat Logan Oxenham got 2,196 votes and Liberal Rhonda Nichol received 1,741 votes. Greens candidate Dennis Bayomi had 70 votes.

On Wednesday, Mike Ambrose, a spokesman for Elections Manitoba, said the Dec. 13 byelection marks the last time ballots will be counted by hand in Manitoba.

“(The byelection) was all manual count of paper ballots,” Ambrose said on Wednesday.

A byelection in Fort Whyte last March was plagued by similar delays in reporting the results of advance votes, which are counted last.

Following the snafus, the Tory government passed legislation to pave the way for electronic voting machines.

Elections Manitoba said next year’s election, to be held on or before Oct. 3, will be the first provincial election to use electronic voting machines similar to the ones used for several years by the City of Winnipeg during municipal elections.

Ambrose said about 85 per cent of the electorate will use electronic voting next October.

“The machines will make it quicker to get results than in the past.”

Ambrose said the Kirkfield Park byelection, which didn’t have an unofficial result showing Tory Kevin Klein as the victor until 11:35 p.m., took that long because, while individual polling stations were able to tally their ballots earlier, the advanced voting numbers were much higher.

“The advanced voting had 2,213 votes,” he said. “The individual polls were less than that… they had about 80 to 150 votes per voting area.

“The time it took to count the ballots was typical.”

Turnout was less was 36.5 per cent, with 6,372 ballots cast in total. In the 2019 election, the vote count was 10,895, but there was no delay in reporting the result.

In Fort Whyte, the unofficial result was posted at 11:15 p.m.

Ambrose explained advanced votes cannot be counted until polls close at 8 p.m. as per election legislation.

On Wednesday, Klein, who has been a candidate in both a civic election using machines, and a provincial one using paper ballots, could not be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for the NDP said voting should be easy and convenient.

“Counting ballots should be as accurate and as timely as possible. We hope the electronic counting system aids in Manitobans having fast results in the next provincial election.”

Kelly Saunders, a political sciences professor at Brandon University, said electronic balloting is the wave of the future.

“Most democracies have electronic balloting systems. If it speeds up the ballot counting, or if there is a need for a recount, it brings us a more expedited process.”

But Saunders, pointing to some of the controversial views held by some in the United States, said the main thing is for the electoral system to be transparent.

“Not that every system will be foolproof, but as long as we can trust the integrity of the process, and have a backup, this should provide for a more accurate process.”

Health Minister Audrey Gordon said regardless of Klein’s tiny margin of victory, a win is a win.

“We won that seat and held it for the Progressive Conservatives and Kevin will be joining our team very soon as an MLA… I was there, and I was ecstatic and thrilled and just so pleased to have Kevin join our team.

“I was able to welcome him today into caucus at the Manitoba Legislative Building, so I’m very, very happy with the results.”

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.


Updated on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 8:18 PM CST: Fixes spacing error

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