The polling agency that carries out the country’s federal election says waiting times at elections could be longer than expected due to labor shortages as well as stringent COVID-19 measures.
The warning comes just days before a federal vote scheduled for next Monday, with Elections Canada preparing for a historic national vote amid the pandemic.
In a statement Thursday to Granthshala News, Elections Canada said they had recently reached more than 80 percent of the total recruitment required to staff polling stations nationwide.
“If we are short of some workers, the election may have to wait a little longer,” the statement said.
The agency also said that they will have to ensure COVID-19 protocols such as outside line-ups, physical distancing and one-way traffic through polling stations – which can also slow down the voting process.
While there can be a long wait at many polling places across Canada, the number of people coming in person to vote on Election Day may not be enough as expected.
Elections Canada estimated that nearly 5.8 million Canadians voted in advance this past weekend, setting a new record. The numbers show an 18.5 percent increase from the 2019 election, which saw 4.9 million votes ahead of time.
Those numbers do not include special mail-in or returning office ballots, the agency told Granthshala News, adding that the process to count those final votes could take two to five days after the election.
Elections Canada previously acknowledged a strong turnout in advance elections held between 10–13 September, and stated that there “might” be lineups in many places.
Asked by Granthshala News this week some advance voters described long wait times that sometimes stretched to hours. But others said the process felt closer to normal than expected.
“It’s good that they took extra steps to make sure it felt safe,” Tamara Hinz, a child psychiatrist in Saskatoon, Sask, said in an interview.
“It was a painful experience – painless and fast.”
Parts of the country, including the Greater Toronto Area, have seen a decrease in the number of polling stations compared to the last election.
Due to the pandemic, Elections Canada also opted in 2020 Not offering voting in universities and colleges, citing a lack of timely clear information and uncertainty about whether students will be allowed on campus.
Ipsos polling has suggested that nearly a quarter of Canadians think it is unsafe to vote in person in the midst of the pandemic.
Only 16 percent of those surveyed said they would vote by mail in this election, while 21 percent said they were unsure whether they would vote by mail or in person. Just two percent said they were considering not voting.
– With files from Ahmar Khan