01/17/2018 11:27 EST | Updated 01/19/2018 14:46 EST

Rules needed for candidates' withdrawal: Elections Nova Scotia report

HALIFAX — An Elections Nova Scotia report is recommending the government move to clear up voter confusion around the withdrawal of candidates after nominations close.

During last spring's provincial election campaign that happened in the case of three candidates — one from each party.

"The Elections Act currently doesn't offer solutions to these circumstances, leaving local electors uninformed of the status of the affected candidate," chief electoral officer Richard Temporale said in a news release.

The report outlines what occurred when the Liberal party withdrew its support for candidate Matthew MacKnight in the Pictou East riding, who formally withdrew from the race on May 9.

Although MacKnight's name was removed from the printed on demand and election day ballots and replaced by that of new candidate John Fraser, there was no adjustment to the write-in ballot which only includes the names of the registered parties and a space to write in the name of an independent candidate.

The report says on election day — May 30 — the 16 write-in ballots cast for the Liberals were included in the overall vote totals for Fraser.

In the case of NDP candidate Bill McEwen, who withdrew May 15 in Dartmouth East, his name remained on the ballot and all of the seven write-in ballots and the 957 ballots cast for him on election day were credited to the party, which had said it didn't want to benefit from any provincial funding arising from the votes.

"There are no provisions in the Act for Elections Nova Scotia to withhold funding based on votes received and therefore the provincial funding tied to the votes for Mr. McEwen remain earmarked for the NDP party," the report states.

In the third case, the report notes that candidate Jad Crnogorac was dumped by the Progressive Conservatives in Dartmouth South and subsequently ran as an Independent.

Despite that, all 12 write in votes and all votes cast for Crnogorac were counted as votes for a Tory candidate and the subsequent funding was earmarked for the party.

"In the Dartmouth East case, most of the 957 votes for Mr. McEwan were cast in the 15 days remaining in the election after he withdrew," the report says.

"If his name and party affiliation was removed from the ballot, some of these voters may have chosen another candidate. Likewise, in the case of Dartmouth South, if the PC Party affiliation for Ms. Crnogorac had been removed some of the voters may have voted for another candidate."

Temporale recommends that a legislated process be put in place to address the situation.

He recommends steps including a process to allow a party to withdraw support through to the end of the Saturday immediately before election day.

And if a party does that, Temporale says it should allow the removal of the per vote subsidy. He says Elections Nova Scotia should also update ballots to reflect that a party has withdrawn its endorsement.

The report also recommends the introduction of e-voting for out-of-province military members and flexibility to allow people to opt out of reporting their sex when registering to vote.

The report says the province has made changes in how gender identity is recorded in government documents such as driver's licences, and as a result the idea that sex be recorded for voter's lists should be changed from mandatory to optional.