By Nicole Feriancek
THE DIGBY COURIER
The provincial voters list was supposed to make things easier.
But hundreds of voter cards are coming back return to sender meaning municipal staff have to figure out where these people really live.
“We just got back a stack of 150 letters of return today, we had the same amount yesterday and probably will have the same number tomorrow,” says Andy Moir, the returning officer for the upcoming municipal elections in the Municipality of the District of Digby.
In previous elections, municipal staff have made their own voter’s list, make sure the names and addresses are correct by going door-to-door.
This time around, the municipality decided to use the provincial voters list, which was provided by Elections Nova Scotia in May.
“We are experiencing real problems with the voter list,” says Moir. “We are sending out these letters, which people need in order to vote, and we are having a 30 per cent return rate because of wrong addresses.
“This is not a problem just here in Digby – it’s right across the province. It’s very aggravating.”
In an email to Moir and other returning officers, Elections Nova Scotia say they analyzed the provincial list of electors, after numerous complaints came in from municipalities around the province, including HRM.
Elections Nova Scotia stands the quality of the list, and provided numbers of “residence moves captured” from May-August 2012. The “residence moves” data came from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
In Digby County, 37 people moved out, 20 moved in and 33 moved within the county.
This would explain at least 90 of the undeliverable letters, but not the hundreds that Moir says they are receiving.
Dana Philip Doiron, spokesperson for Elections Nova Scotia, says there isn’t a problem with provincial voters list. The list is constantly being updated and gathers information from six different databases.
When Digby received the list on May 15, it was up-to-date.
“Every month there are changes of address, as people move in and out of communities,” says Doiron. “That’s normal.
“Is it a vast problem? No, because most of these people are not eligible to vote anyway.”
That’s because by law, you have to live in a community for three months before you are eligible to vote in a municipal election.
In this case, you would need to have moved to Digby on or before July 20 to be eligible to vote here.
Still anyone who moved to Digby, or moved within Digby, between May 15 and July 20, while eligibnle to vote, would not appear correctly on the “up-to-date” list and has likely not received their voter cards.
Back at the municipality offices in Seabrook, Moir is trying to sleuth out where he should deliver the returned letters.
“We try to track down if they’ve moved away, or if just the information is incorrect. We go through phonebooks, we send emails, we looks at telephone records, and we ask around throughout the office, because we know a lot of the people in our municipality.
“It’s a huge amount of work.”
Looking at the large stack of letters, Moir says there is no way so many people have moved away.
He urges those who haven’t yet received their letter to let the municipality know.
“Please call us. We can get you on the voters list, and get you ready to vote. There’s still enough time.”
And even if a letter with your voting PIN never arrives, you can still vote in person by simply bringing identification with you to the polls on Saturday, Oct. 20.