Thousands of Blood Tribe members came out to vote for a chief and council on Thursday and long lines of people waiting to cast their ballot could be seen throughout the day.
Several officials and volunteers worked hard to make sure all necessary COVID-19 precautions were being carefully followed at four polling stations.
“This year’s elections saw many safety measures in place in response to COVID-19, which included more voting polls and voters provided with masks and gloves,” read a statement sent out by the Blood Tribe communications teams on Friday.
But some Blood Tribe members are upset after they say they were turned away from the polling station at Exhibition Park in Lethbridge after an estimated 150 to 200 people waited in line for hours outside in the cold.
The Blood Tribe said it is reviewing the matter, however they did not specifically address voter concerns late Friday afternoon.
Many took to social media to lay out their frustrations.
“The line stretched from the door from around the building and I was almost on the side of the main pavilion — like, I was pretty far back there — so to hear that people were standing out there for two hours, three hours… (it’s) kind of concerning,” said Danielle Black Rabbit, one of the people who was waiting in line to vote Thursday night.
Black Rabbit, who was planning on voting for the first time, said once she heard voting had been extended to 8 p.m., she quickly found a babysitter for her young son and ran over to make it into the line by 7:30 p.m.
She said it was hard for some to make it out to the polling stations earlier on in the day since they weren’t able to get the time off of work and could only start making their way over once they finished.
Black Rabbit said she was not able to make it to Standoff for early voting as she does not have a vehicle and lives in Lethbridge.
On Friday, Lethbridge police sent out a statement about what went on at the polling station.
“Police were called to an off-reserve Blood Tribe elections polling station Thursday by a private security company concerned a group unable to vote was becoming aggressive,” the statement reads in part.
The statement went on to say the crowd dispersed and left without incident.
However, Black Rabbit disputes part of the police statement, which refers to the crowd as being “aggressive.”
“Nobody was yelling, nobody was pushing, nobody was being rude — we were just asking why,” she said.
“We were there before 8 p.m. Our vote matters. That’s literally all everyone was saying. Nobody was getting violent.”
Black Rabbit said she understands COVID-19 precautions delayed the process, but feels she was robbed of her right to cast a ballot.
She added the line barely moved while she was in it.
“Lines are super slow, due to COVID-19 restrictions,” said Shantel Tallow, another Blood Tribe member that was outside of the polling station Thursday night. “I feel a second date should be allowed, due to longevity of wait and following of AHS protocols.
“Only a certain number of individuals are allowed into the building, so that’s what really slowed it all down.”
Tallow went on to say it was her first time voting, and that she’s saddened to have gone through the ordeal.
“We want our voices to be heard,” she said. “But to have been shut off in this manner was totally off the charts and wrong.”
The Blood Tribe made results official late Friday afternoon for the positions of chief and 12 councillors.
Incumbent Roy Fox was re-elected as chief with 628 votes.
The Blood Tribe said any appeals will be handled by the chief electoral officer, Wilton Good Striker.
Additional official Blood Tribe Election 2020 information can be found at bloodtribe.org.