More than 260,000 households sent incorrect info by Elections N.B.

Elections New Brunswick says envelopes carrying information about November elections went to the right people but with the wrong content. (Contributed by Elections NB - image credit)
Elections New Brunswick says envelopes carrying information about November elections went to the right people but with the wrong content. (Contributed by Elections NB - image credit)

Elections are taking place in newly formed municipalities across New Brunswick next month, but a widespread mixup may leave some people confused about whether one will take place in their community.

More than 260,000 households are getting letters with incorrect information, Elections New Brunswick said Wednesday.

Households in communities that will have a local election were mistakenly sent letters saying they won't have one. Households in places that won't have an election were sent letters saying they will, the agency said.

Elections New Brunswick says there was a file mixup with the vendor contracted to print and distribute the letters through Canada Post.

The agency was sent a proof of the material, but the errors weren't caught, said Kim Poffenroth, the chief electoral officer.

Elections New Brunswick spent around $400,000 mailing the incorrect information.

The mixup occurred because names and addresses of people in areas that won't be having elections were added to materials intended for residents of communities that will hold an election, she said.

Poffenroth said people should visit the Elections New Brunswick website for correct information about their municipalities.

Fifty new municipalities and 12 rural districts will be holding elections for the first time on Nov. 28.

"I'm hopeful that with the amount of attention and our assurance to try and correct this information as soon as possible, that people will get the message and we can correct any misunderstandings," Poffenroth said.

Some but not all of the households began receiving the incorrect letters this week.

How the mistakes happened 

The file containing the information separating the two groups was correct when it was sent to the distributor, Poffenroth said.

"And then when the, I guess, the sheets that go in the envelopes, were produced, the vendor  — from what we can tell from the information we have — inverted that."

Lars Schwarz/CBC
Lars Schwarz/CBC

The agency will be reviewing its own process to ensure this doesn't happen again.

"We received a proof and we missed that part," Poffenroth said. "It wasn't picked up in our proofing process."

How the actual mistake at the distributor occurred is under investigation, she said.

80,000 people will get correct information

The 260,000 letters with incorrect information were in the first batch of pre-election material sent out by Elections New Brunswick. A few days after the first letters were mailed out, a second batch was sent to 80,000 households.

This second batch had the correct information, but this only complicates the correction process, said Poffenroth.

Lars Schwarz/CBC
Lars Schwarz/CBC

"It would actually make the correction a lot easier if it had gone to everyone, because we could just tell everyone, 'Whatever you got was incorrect.' But some people do have the correct information."

Correcting the mistake

She said the agency was alerted to the issue on Oct. 4, when two people phoned in to say they received incorrect information. One of them lives in an area that will hold an election and the other doesn't.

"We immediately began investigating to see what had happened and what the magnitude of the error was," Poffenroth said.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

"It's not the way I would have wanted attention to be drawn to this election. But you know, you have to do what is necessary to make sure people have the right information when an error like this occurs."

Before realizing the mistake, Elections New Brunswick already planned to publish inserts in newspapers and flyer bags next week that are delivered to people's homes.

In light of the error, Poffenroth said, the agency will be using its social media channels to "get as many eyes on this correction as possible."