Elections Canada reports technical issues, polling station disruptions as Canadians cast their ballots
EDMONTON -- Monday’s federal election saw a rocky start with some voters unable to locate their polling stations, an issue further exacerbated by a technical issue with an application on Election Canada’s website.
Those who tried to access Election Canada’s voter information service page – which allows voters to find their polling station by entering their postal code and address – were greeted with an error message early Monday.
"We were unable to find your voting location. Please call the office of the returning officer for assistance,” read the message, according to dozens of user reports on social media.
Although service to the application was restored by mid-afternoon, and an apology was issued on the Elections Canada Twitter account, confusion among voters continued, with Elections Canada fielding dozens of tweets from voters unable to find the polling stations listed on their voter registration card.
According to Elections Canada spokeswoman Diane Benson, polling locations may change after the poll is confirmed due to logistical reasons like availability. If there is time, Elections Canada will send out a "replacement" voter information card with the updated location.
“Very rarely, we lose a location at the last minute, or even on election day… We manage to find a location as close as possible nearby and try to have an information officer at the site, directing people to the new location,” Benson said in relation to reports of those unable to find their polling station.
“We have been telling people to make sure they check their voter card before they go out, or enter their postal code on the website, just to check they are going to the right place before they leave the house. Today, the volume was very high for this service and there were a few service interruptions that were quickly fixed.”
In addition to long lines and longer than usual wait times at polling stations, some of which has been attributed to ongoing COVID-19 measures, Elections Canada also reported a handful of disruptions at polling stations across the country.
While the majority of polling stations opened on time and without incident, Elections Canada says issues were reported at several sites in Ontario and Western Canada, resulting in some stations opening late or having to be relocated. Those include a polling station in the riding of Brantford-Brant, southwest of Toronto, which had to be moved following an Indigenous-led protest.
Poll workers did not show up for two polls in the Ontario riding of Kenora, near the border with Manitoba, delaying voting. Two polling locations in First Nations communities in the Alberta riding of Grand Prairie-Mackenzie were also late opening due to staff being unable to get into locked buildings. The polls have since opened.
According to the Canadian Press, special arrangements were also made with the approval of local campaigns for several polling places in the Toronto ridings of Eglinton-Lawrence and University-Rosedale to manage the flow of voters while respecting safety measures in place.
Meanwhile, in the King-Vaughan riding, northwest of Toronto, voters were faced with a wait of more than two hours as of Monday evening.
Police in Edmonton also responded to a disruption at a polling station where a man and woman refused to wear a mask inside a local public school as they tried to vote. Police said the man allegedly had a medical exemption and co-operated when asked to leave.
Elections Canada previously warned that the pandemic could lead to longer waits for voters compared to past elections thanks to public health protocols like distancing and collecting extra information for contact tracing purposes.
The polling stations themselves are also likely to be farther away, as many schools and landlords opted out of hosting crowds of voters during the fourth wave of the pandemic.
Elections Canada encouraged voters to wear masks but only required them in places where they were mandated by provincial rules. Proof-of-vaccination regulations do not apply at polling stations in any province where they currently exist.
Despite pleas from some social media users, Benson says it is very unlikely that any poll hours would be extended. Instead, anyone who is in line at the close of polls will be processed and allowed to vote.
With files from The Canadian Press