What is a Returning Officer?
The Returning Officer is the key election official in each of the Province's 27 electoral districts. A provincial general election, in fact, is not one election, but 27 separate elections conducted locally.
The Returning Officer must work very quickly to set up a properly equipped office while at the same time putting in place an effective support team to undertake the many tasks related to enumeration, voter registration, advance polls, mail-in ballots and election day. This requires distributing large quantities of documents, installing fax machines, hiring and training a wide-range of support staff including confirmation officers, election clerks, deputy returning officers and poll clerks. The staff needed per electoral district may exceed 60 people in some cases.
During the election period the Returning Officer is also called on to supervise the confirmation of voters in the electoral district, make available the lists of electors, receive nomination papers of candidates, accept mail-in ballot applications and provide advance polls and voting facilities on election day.
The Office of the Returning Officer becomes the prime source of information for individuals concerned about their eligibility to vote. As well, the Returning Officer is responsible for all information and documents relating to the provisions of voter registration, voting by mail-in ballots and voting at Advance Polls and Polling Day.
The responsibilities of the Returning Officer do not end with the casting of the last ballot. Once the polls close, the Returning Officer receives the unofficial poll results from the Deputy Returning Officers in the electoral district. The Returning Officer must confirm on election night with the Deputy Returning Officers that they have phoned the voting results to election central for reporting. The Monday following the election, the Returning Officers conduct the official tabulation of voting results for all polling divisions within their electoral district. If no recount is requested, the returns are then forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer and the candidates in the electoral district. Finally, the Returning Officer must complete and file all election forms and documentation with Elections PEI.