TORONTO – Many older voters, parents with young children and Canadians with disabilities did not vote on Monday because they could not wait in long lineups at their polling places. Elections Canada has apologized but said there was nothing else they could do given the COVID-19 restrictions.
“I always vote and am incredibly disappointed that I didn’t this time,” said Patricia Au, a voter at the University-Rosedale’s Toronto Riding. On Monday she was told twice that she would wait for two hours. “I confiscated my ballot this year.”
Farah Hassanali, a single mother from Ajax, Ont. Along with the five-year-old twins, she was similarly disappointed at how slowly the line was moving at her polling place.
“I had to pick up my kids from school and daycare… and I couldn’t go back to vote because my kids are small and I couldn’t stand by them for hours,” she told Granthshala.ca. phone interview.
“I set aside some time in my day to go and vote, but in my past experiences it never took that long,” Hasnali said. And because many people predicted a Liberal victory even before they voted, she was missing the word? saw? People who left the line because they felt their votes didn’t matter.
“I don’t think it was efficient and running properly.”
Election Canada ‘sorry’ but hands were tied
Hearing the stories of people leaving the lineup, Election Canada’s media advisor Rajan Grenier said, “I feel for the people who had to do this.”
But he insisted the agency had no choice but to run the election during the pandemic. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, many ridings across the country had significantly lower overall polling places, which prevented many schools, churches or other buildings from being eligible venues.
“We had all the criteria that were placed on us where we didn’t have a choice about choosing certain sites,” Grenier said in a phone interview. They pointed out that despite the ride with fewer polling places, they had more booths inside, which meant that the total number of polling booths was the same as in previous years.
He also noted that those who couldn’t or didn’t want to wait in line could mail in their ballots, or submit their ballots via advanced voting during the four appointed days earlier this month. could.
“We’re very sorry that people couldn’t or couldn’t stay in line, but most people were patient and did,” Grenier said.
Older voters, disabled people left out
For many older voters and people with disabilities, it was less a matter of patience and more of physical limitations.
Roy Bagnato and his wife at York-Simco Riding, Ontario, told Granthshala.ca in an email that they are in their early 80s and can’t wait to be out in the hot sun. Meanwhile, Senior Guard Bullied and his wife likewise could not wait for hours at their polling place in Peterborough County in southern Ontario.
“So for the first time in our lives we didn’t vote,” Bullied wrote in an email to Granthshala.ca.
Several other voters — like Patricia Farmer from Keswick, Ont. Those who use wheelchairs — said their physical disabilities made the lineup difficult.
“Cars were parked all the way down the main road. It was not moving and would have taken us hours to park,” she wrote in an email to Granthshala.ca, adding that she had visited twice.
“We have always instilled in our children and grandchildren the importance of voting, no matter what, and practiced what we preached. Well, this time none of us were given the ability to vote.”
Whitby, Ont. Resident Nikki Yannick Henderson has cerebral palsy and feels “very bad” because she can’t stand for long periods of time.
“I think it’s very disappointing. We hear over and over again that people with disabilities matter, but it shows that we have a long way to go,” she told Granthshala.ca via text, adding that Given that the building is accessible by wheelchair, there is not enough to create a truly accessible area.
“Ideally there should be a line for people who may have mobility challenges,” she said. “We have to continue to look at ways to make the experience fully accessible from the very beginning.”
Her father, David McKinnon — vice chairman of the Town of Whitby Accessibility Advisory Committee — wanted security and polling place volunteers to have more leeway in expediting wait times for older Canadians and people with disabilities.
“I’m almost 70. I’m not going to stand in line for that kind of time… One look at the lineup and we just kept driving,” he told Granthshala.ca in a phone interview. I haven’t voted in the election, it’s been a long, long time.”
An Elections Canada spokesperson said that in previous elections, volunteers often scanned the lines to allow older voters to leave the line. But this time, the lines were much longer and the volunteers were focused on pushing the lines instead.
What about online voting?
McKinnon said more needs to be done for Canadians with disabilities, and this pandemic election was the year to do so.
“It is difficult for persons with disabilities to vote even with mail-in ballots. A web-based voting system is needed,” he said.
He said it should be a “trusted voter” program that allows people to vote online if they have been thoroughly scrutinized by the government.
Grenier, a spokesman for Elections Canada, cited evidence showing how online voting – as seen in the 2018 municipal elections in Ontario – can unfortunately be prone to errors and irregularities. He said that even if an infrastructure could be set up, it would require changes to the Election Act before it could be used federally.
Although she was unable to vote, Hasnali said she sympathized with Election Canada for holding the election during a pandemic, but given that the COVID-19 restrictions were already known by now, she would whether there are more advance polling days or more time allowed. Mail in their ballots.
“I feel that my voice is not heard and I understand that many people are in the same situation.”