The time to vote has arrived – in person, that is.
Millions of Canadians will be able to cast their ballots at voting stations on Friday as advanced polls open across the country. Any eligible voter will have until Sept. 13 to mark their ballots at a polling station in their riding as part of the advanced window.
Advanced voting is proving to be a popular method in Canada’s elections, said Dugald Maudsley, an Elections Canada spokesperson.
He told Global News that in the 2019 election, 4,840,300 voters went out to advanced polls while 3,657,415 did so in 2015.
With the country is in a COVID-19 fourth wave, Maudsley said it’s possible the turnout for advanced polling will increase again this time around – but anything can happen.
“Often (advanced polling stations are) not as crowded, they’re not as busy and it’s a way to get in efficiently and get your vote done,” he said.
“We’re really telling people that voting in person at advanced polls and on election day is still the simplest and most efficient way to vote.”
Canada has been in election mode since Aug. 15 and party leaders have been busy touring the country in an effort to get voters on their sides. The leaders took part in the first of two official debates Wednesday night, trading blows in French. The English-language debate will take place Thursday night, and it’s expected to draw in millions of viewers.
The debates are happening at a time when some Canadians still don’t know who they’re voting for. A new Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News found 13 per cent of those surveyed are undecided.
Those results also showed nearly half of those voters — 47 per cent — didn’t like any of the parties, while 50 per cent said there shouldn’t be an election right now due to the pandemic.
“In a close race like this one … every vote counts, and I think we’ll see the leaders spending a lot of time trying to court the undecided voters, because even just a couple of points in their direction is going to play out favourably on election night,” said Sean Simpson, vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs, in a recent Global News interview.
With advanced polling here, Maudsley wants Canadians to know in-person voting will be safe during the fourth wave. He compared in-person voting to visiting the grocery store, and voters can expect Elections Canada staff to follow all health protocols.
For example, he said Canadians can expect poll workers to be wearing face masks and shields, and that they’ll be behind plexiglass. There will also be sanitation stations and social distancing will be enforced.
“You really won’t be there for very long once you’ve checked yourself in,” Maudsley said. “It’s really about a five-minute process to vote.”
So, how does advanced polling work?
Advanced polling is essentially an opportunity to vote ahead of election day Sept. 20, Maudsley said.
For those who want to vote early, Maudsley said they should bring their voter information card, and identification that proves who they are and where they live, to the station seconded for advanced voting.
For those who have yet to receive their voter card in the mail, they can find out all relevant information on the Elections Canada website.
In terms of identification, he said voters could resort to what they have in their wallets, like a driver’s license.
If voters don’t have a license, they have to bring in two pieces of ID, one that proves who they are and another that proves where they live, Maudsley added.
“So one of those things is a credit card that’s got your name on it, that proves your identity,” he said. “The other thing that will prove where you live, it might be a bill that you receive on a monthly basis.”
Voters can also cast their ballots in person after advanced polls close. Voting by special ballot at Elections Canada offices in ridings have been open seven days a week, but the deadline to vote in-person is Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. ET, he added.
If I don’t want to vote in person, can I still do so?
Elections Canada has been preparing for an influx of votes cast by mail this election. Based on survey data, early in its pandemic planning the agency estimated anywhere between four to five million Canadians do so.
As of mid-August, that number shrunk to anywhere between two to three million. So far, Elections Canada has sent out 726,543 special ballots to date. Roughly 55,000 people voted by mail in 2019.
The deadline to register for mail-in voting is Sept. 14, and can be done on the Elections Canada website. If Canadians decide to choose this method, Maudsley said they should be prepared.
“So we say to people, if you want to vote by mail, have a plan — because you do need to leave yourself time to get the ballot and then get the ballot back to us,” he said, adding it’s up to each voter to send their ballot in on time.
“If you are voting locally, which means that you’re in your electorate but you’ve decided to vote by mail, you’ve got to get your ballot back to your returning office by the end of polling day — that’s the deadline.”
Applicants will be asked about their citizenship, age, email address, home and mailing address. The process can take up to 72 hours from the time of application. Once submitted, voters can check the status of their applications online using a reference number that will be emailed to them.
Maudsley added that for Canadians voting by mail outside of their riding, like residents overseas, their ballots will go back to Ottawa for counting and must be there by 6 p.m. ET on election day.
Shortage of election workers
In addition to voting, Maudsley is appealing for Canadians who are interested to sign up to work at polling stations.
In some regions across Canada, specifically the Greater Toronto Horseshoe Area, Elections Canada is experiencing a shortage of staff. Those areas include Niagara and York regions. Anyone interested can find out more online at Elections Canada.
“They get paid for an eight-hour day, they get overtime, they get paid for training, the whole nine yards,” Maudsley said. “So it is actually quite a great experience … and we’re looking for people.”
–With files from Sean Boynton