Edmonton — Monday’s federal election saw a rocky start with some voters’ inability to locate their polling stations, an issue escalated from a technical issue with an application on the Elections Canada website.
People who tried to access Election Canada’s Voter Information Services page – which allows voters to find their polling station by entering their postal code and address – were greeted with an error message early Monday.
According to dozens of user reports on social media, “We could not find your polling location. Please call the Returning Officer’s office for assistance.”
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 Election Canada unable to find the polling stations listed on their voter registration cards. Fielding dozens of tweets. .
According to Election Canada spokeswoman Diane Benson, polling places may change once the vote is confirmed for logistical reasons such as availability. If there is time, Elections Canada will send a “replacement” voter information card with the updated location.
“Very rarely, we lose a place at the last minute, or even on election day… we find a location as close as possible and try to have an information officer on site, people Let us direct you to the new location,” Benson said in relation to reports of people not locating their polling station.
“We are asking people to make sure they check their voter card before going out, or enter their postal code on the website, just to check that they are going to the right place before leaving home. Huh. Today, the volume for this service was high and there were some service interruptions that were quickly rectified.”
In addition to long lines and longer-than-normal wait times at polling stations, some of which have been attributed to ongoing COVID-19 measures, Elections Canada also reported some disruptions at polling stations across the country.
While most 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. These include a polling station in the Brentford-Brant ride southwest of Toronto, which had to be relocated following Indigenous-led protests.
Polling workers did not turn up for two elections in the Ontario ride of Kenora near the border with Manitoba, delaying voting. Two polling places in First Nations communities in the Grand Prairie-Mackenzie ride in Alberta were also late-opening because workers could not go into closed buildings. Since then the voting has started.
According to the Canadian Press, special arrangements were made with the approval of local campaigns for several polling places in the Toronto Riding of Eglinton-Lawrence and University-Rosedale to manage the flow of voters while respecting the security measures in place.
Meanwhile, in King-Won’s ride northwest of Toronto, voters had to wait more than two hours until Monday evening.
Police in Edmonton also responded to 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 reportedly had medical exemption and cooperated when asked to leave.
Elections Canada previously warned that the pandemic could lead to a longer wait for voters than in previous elections, thanks to public health protocols such as distancing and collecting additional information for contact tracing purposes.
The polling station itself is also likely to be remote, as many schools and landlords opted to host 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 regulations. Proof-of-vaccination rules do not apply to polling stations in any province where they currently exist.
Despite pleas from some social media users, Benson says it is highly unlikely that any voting hours will be extended. Instead, whoever is in the queue at the end of the poll will be processed and allowed to vote.
With files from the Canadian Press