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The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has struck down the special ballot provisions of the province’s Elections Act, ruling them unconstitutional.

Justice Gillian Butler ruled Wednesday that the province’s special ballot rules violate section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees every Canadian citizen has the right to vote in federal and provincial elections.

Former NDP candidate Julie Mitchell launched the Charter challenge after losing the 2011 election in Burin-Placentia West by just 40 votes to then-Tory cabinet minister Clyde Jackman. She challenged the practice in place since 2007 of allowing special ballots to be cast up to four weeks before an election is called and candidates nominated. She argued this gave an unfair advantage to incumbent candidates.

“In the result, I grant the declaration sought by the applicant that the special ballot provisions, section 86 to 86.10 of the Elections Act, 1991, infringe section 3 of the Charter and are not saved by section 1,” Justice Butler wrote in her decision. “As such, they are inconsistent with the Constitution and of no force and effect.”

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