Heavy voter turnout and frustration on first day of advance polls

A voting sign, October 19, 2015. (Photo by Alexandra Latremouille)

The first day of advance polls on Friday saw long lineups and angry voters at some polling stations in Chatham.

Frustrated voter Richard, who preferred to not give his last name, told Blackburn Media it took 1.5 hours to cast his ballot at the Orangewood Salvation Army polling station. He called it chaos and said several voters became angry with how long they were going to wait. He said some left without voting.

Richard is concerned delays at advance polls this weekend and regular polls on September 20 will lead to low voter turnout.

“When you leave finally, you advise the people who are coming in that it’s an hour and a half minimum and they just turn around and go home,” said Richard. “So, this is going to have a serious effect on a number of people who are voting unless they clean this up and I mean quickly.”

Elections Canada spokesperson Rejean Grenier told Blackburn Media “it’s always busy on the first day” of advance voting.

“We were expecting there would be a heavy turnout on advance polls, that has been the pattern in the last elections actually and that is why we have four days to vote at advance polls,” said Grenier.

Grenier said a combination of heavy voter turnout, COVID-19 safety protocols, and larger polling stations are causing the delays. The larger polling stations are a result of fewer schools available for voting because of the pandemic.

Grenier asks people to be patient and reminds voters they have four days of advance polls. He suggested perhaps choosing a slower time of day, such as Sunday at 8 p.m.

Advance polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.