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Elections Canada braces for recounts

With many ridings too close to call, officials prepare for drawn-out process

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Ottawa — It could take days to determine the outcome of the election if the race is so tight that riding recounts are needed to break a tie, Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley said yesterday.

"For us, it's standard operating procedure," he said, referring to recounts, at a news conference in Ottawa. "The law requires that there be a recount before a judge and all recounts are before a judge in this country."

Polls show the Liberals and Tories are neck and neck as the campaign enters its final days. Many ridings are too close to call, and Elections Canada officials are prepared for recount requests.

It takes seven days to validate the results in any given riding. Under the Canada Elections Act, a recount request must be made within four days of validation.

The judge has four days to grant it or not, and if granted, the recount might take two or three days.

There is an automatic recount if the first- and second-place candidates are separated by less than 0.1 per cent of the total votes cast in their electoral district.

For example, if fewer than 100 votes separated the two top candidates in a riding where 100,000 ballots were cast, there would be an automatic recount.

University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman said Monday's election will be a squeaker, but he doubts it will be so close that recounts will delay the overall results for days.

"It's going to be closer than any race we've had since 1972," he said. In 1972, former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau won over Tory leader Robert Stanfield by 109 to 107 ridings.

"There's a chance we'll go to bed Monday night not knowing who the prime minister is," University of Calgary political scientist David Taras said.

Elections Canada officials are bracing for a heavy turnout.

"We have developed the worst-case scenario based on our experience in 2000," Mr. Kingsley said.


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Voters won't be able to avoid the crowds by casting an electronic ballot in this election. Elections Canada said reports on attempts by the Pentagon to allow U.S. soldiers to vote over the Internet showed security flaws.

"So I don't see why we would get into this field," he said.

"I do think one day technology will be developed to make the process entirely secure or secure enough to be able to vote through the Internet."

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