A surge in early voting may not mean higher voter turnout: N.S.political analyst

Early voting is up significantly in Nova Scotia compared to the same point in the last provincial election, but it's unclear if the increase will translate to more votes overall.

As of Thursday, 12,300 voters had already cast their ballot or requested a write-in ballot. At this point in the 2017 provincial election, just over 4,300 early votes had been cast.

Although early voting is up, experts say it’s too early to tell if this will reflect in the overall voter turnout.

"What this shows me is that there hasn't yet been a massive push, either through generalized advertising by Elections Nova Scotia, or the parties and candidates themselves to get people to cast their ballots early," said Tom Urbaniak, a political science professor at Cape Breton University.

Voter turnout for the 2017 election was just 54 per cent. Some worry this election could drop below that.

"Fifty per cent is a psychological threshold," said Urbaniak. "If we were to see voter turnout below 50 per cent it would have a kind of corrosive impact on our sense of the legitimacy of our political actor."

As for the leaders of the three major parties, NDP's Gary Burrill was the first to cast his ballot on Wednesday and Liberal leader Iain Rankin voted Friday. PC leader Tim Houston says he plans to vote on Election Day.

"We just want people to vote, it's important, it matters who we elect. Democracy still matters and that's the message we're sharing with Nova Scotians,” said Houston.

"I think that people are excited about the next chapter for our province. Everywhere I go I hear optimism of what we can do in this province,” said Rankin.

"All of our candidates are experiencing on the doorsteps a real engagement, a real interest,” said Burrill.

Elections Nova Scotia typically hires about 6,000 people to run a provincial election, but because of new COVID-19 protocols, they need an additional 2,000 workers.

"Most positions you need to be an eligible voter, so you need to be 18 years of age or older, a Canadian citizen and have lived in Nova Scotia since January 17 of 2021,” said Naomi Shelton.