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No apologies from Elections P.E.I. for slow-moving byelection results

Bonnie Wheatley, left, registers with Carol Murphy prior to casting her vote in the District 11 By-Election this afternoon at the East Link Centre in Charlottetown. Wheatley is from the neighbourhood of Park dale. Linda Younker, centre, is also a registration clerk. (SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN)
Bonnie Wheatley, left, registers with Carol Murphy prior to casting her vote in the District 11 byelection Monday at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown. (SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN)

Agency says it was more concerned about getting results accurately than getting them out quickly

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Elections P.E.I. isn’t apologizing for the slow-moving election results Monday night, but it is working on improvements to its website.

Tim Garrity, the chief electoral officer, said Tuesday they’re always looking to improve and make sure the service is offered in the fastest way possible to get the numbers out.

“But, we also have to respect the counting process and we don’t want to rush it,’’ Garrity said. “It needs to be done correctly, so they take whatever time is needed to go through the ballots.’’

Results were slow to be reported by Elections P.E.I. Monday evening, leading to frustration among party faithful and political watchers. Polls closed at 7 p.m. but once the advance poll numbers were released it, was a long wait for the next poll.

Final results were not reported by Elections P.E.I. until after 9 p.m. Liberal candidate Bob Doiron gave his concession speech to his party workers before the final results were in.

The same scenario played out during the District 21 Summerside-Wilmot byelection in 2016. Elections P.E.I. said at the time it would work on improvements.

Garrity explained there were still people in the polls on Monday casting their vote at 7 p.m.

“If you’re in the polls at 7 p.m. you’re still allowed to vote. By the time people cleared out it was five to six minutes after seven and then things had to be set up to move into counting and just to get things started so it did take a little bit of time.’’

New man at the top - Elections P.E.I. has a new chief electoral officer.

  • Tim Garrity began the job on Nov. 16.
  • He took over from Marian Johnston
  • Garrity is slowly transitioning from his old role as director of Access P.E.I.

Byelection results are shown on the Election P.E.I. website.
Byelection results are shown on the Election P.E.I. website.

Garrity and his staff were working at the Elections P.E.I. office Monday night but were in constant communication with poll workers just to see if “there was anything we could do to get them to go through it as quickly as’’ they could.

He did acknowledge changes have to be made to the website. Many people couldn’t get on the site numerous times through the evening.

“It never officially crashed, it was sporadic. It would work for some and not for others. We have met with IT (people) with the province and we talked with them about what the issues were.’’

Garrity said Elections P.E.I. will be moving to a newer platform going forward so it doesn’t happen again.

He noted there was much more demand on the server Monday night due to the tight race than there was in the byelection last year.

UPEI political science professor Peter McKenna said there is no excuse for the slow-moving results or the website problems.

“Elections P.E.I. needs to get its act together and come into the 21st century. That was embarrassing last night,’’ McKenna said. “There’s no reason why they didn’t learn from an earlier byelection in Summerside where they had all these delays. (They only) had 2,000 votes to count. They need someone to turn that place around.’’

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