An unusually high number of special ballots needing to be verified and counted mean voters in a west Winnipeg riding likely won't know who their elected MP is until later this week.

An unusually high number of special ballots needing to be verified and counted mean voters in a west Winnipeg riding likely won't know who their elected MP is until later this week.

It could take another one or two days for the winner to be declared in Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 109 votes separated Conservative incumbent Marty Morantz from Liberal challenger Doug Eyolfson — and 3,107 special ballots (which include mail-in votes) still need to be tallied.

The riding is one of many across Canada to log unprecedented numbers of special ballots, including some that were dropped off at polls on election day and are still being verified. There were 1.2 million special ballots received nationally this election, while only 55,000 mail-in votes came in 2019, an Elections Canada spokesperson said.

"We've never had that many in any election," said regional media adviser Marie-France Kenny.

In Manitoba ridings, more than 27,000 special ballot voting kits have to be verified and counted starting Tuesday morning from voters who live within their riding. (Other special ballots, including those from voters living abroad or living in Canada but not within the riding they voted in, have already been counted.)

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley was the only Manitoba race too close to call on election night.

With all but the special ballots counted, Morantz held 38.9 per cent of the vote and Eyolfson had 38.7 per cent.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Doug Eyolfson, the Liberal candidate in Charleswood-St James-Assiniboia-Headingley, speaks to media and supporters during a post-election party at the Cork and Flame on Portage Avenue, in Winnipeg Monday. Election officials were still counting special ballots as of Tuesday afternoon meaning voters in the west Winnipeg riding likely won't know who their elected MP is until later this week.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Doug Eyolfson, the Liberal candidate in Charleswood-St James-Assiniboia-Headingley, speaks to media and supporters during a post-election party at the Cork and Flame on Portage Avenue, in Winnipeg Monday. Election officials were still counting special ballots as of Tuesday afternoon meaning voters in the west Winnipeg riding likely won't know who their elected MP is until later this week.

Political scientist Chris Adams, rector of St. Paul's College at the University of Manitoba, said support for the People's Party of Canada may have split the Conservative vote and affected the outcome.

"If Morantz survives the mail-in ballot count, that will be one thing. But if Doug Eyolfson wins that riding, then that's really the impact of the PPC," Adams said.

The campaign teams for both Morantz and Eyolfson indicated Tuesday they'll have more to say when the results are confirmed.

For now, they wait. None of the special ballots had been marked as counted as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Elections Canada's website. Kenny said that's because the process is thorough.

Each special ballot vote is triple-sealed, with multiple verification steps before it can be counted. The voter places it in an unmarked, sealed envelope, which goes into another sealed envelope that is signed by the voter, before being placed in a third sealed envelope sent to its destination.

Before the innermost unmarked envelopes can be opened and the votes tallied, officials have to make sure the signatures are valid and the voter hasn't voted in any other polls in this election.

"It might take one to two days because of all those steps they need to do first, and then they count," Kenny said.

— with files from Dylan Robertson

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @thatkatiemay

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.