Canadians are showing out in force to cast their ballots ahead of federal election day with 5.8 million Canadians casting a ballot during advanced voting.
The advance polls were open from Sept. 10-13, and for some, it became a necessity to avoid the major crowds that might show up on election day during a pandemic. Tamara Hinz, a child psychiatrist out of Saskatoon, Sask., made sure to cast her vote in her riding of University over the weekend.
“It was sort of a priority for me to get there today before it closed,” said Hinz. “It was a great experience — painless and quick.”
The mother of two school-aged children, Hinz said the process was not too laborious. When she arrived to vote, there was a steadily moving line and she was able to get in and out within 20 minutes. In fact, she said she felt safe from the moment she walked in as she saw staff fully masked, practicing social distancing and contact tracing.
“I hope that nobody is scared off from voting because of the pandemic,” said Hinz. “It felt safer than going to the grocery store.”
Elections Canada estimates roughly 5.8 million Canadians voted in the advanced polls — an 18.5 per cent increase from the 2019 election, when 4.9 million voted in advance.
The numbers do not include mail-in ballots received by Elections Canada so far.
Some early-bird voters described hour-long waits on Twitter.
Elections Canada acknowledged that, because of strong turnout at advance polls, “there may have been line ups in some places.”
To some, those long line-ups — somewhat a quintessential aspect of the pandemic at this point — were a good sign.
“Our wait is about one hour,” Uttara Chauhan tweeted Monday night, the last day for advance voting. “But happy that folks are getting out to vote!!”
For Hinz, she’s spent much of the past four week dredging the voting process. But, when it came time to make up her mind cast her ballot, she said the process of voting in-person felt a lot closer to normal than she anticipated.
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“It’s nice they went the extra steps to make sure it felt safe,” she said.
Hinz, who is a progressive voter, was caught off guard by the election call. With no looming threat of a non-confidence vote or otherwise, Hinz said that while she does take her voting responsibilities, having to go to the polls with an impending fourth wave was not ideal.
“It felt a bit unnecessary to call an election… I would have rather not voted in a pandemic,” she said.
'A bit of relief' to have voted early
It’s not just a matter of the pandemic itself, but due to her profession, Hinz has been swarmed at work. She’s also a mother of two elementary-aged children, so making time to listen to the debates or follow along with every party promise has been seemingly impossible.
“It feels like a bit of relief to just to exercise my democratic duty and not have to worry about it,” she said.
That sense of relief is echoed by Jennifer Taylor in Nova Scotia. The 38-year-old voted in her third federal election in the Dartmouth-Cole Harbour riding.
“I’m relieved to have checked this off,” she said.
Throughout the course of the election, Taylor has felt “pretty uninspired” by the fact she’s had to vote in an election that she thinks was “not needed”. The early election call led to Taylor voting for the NDP and giving less consideration to the Liberals.
“It was quite a crass political move for the Liberals to call the election now, but we got to do our civic duty,” said Taylor.
Taylor, who just voted in the provincial election less than a month ago said the process was virtually identical. Much like the provincial election, her decision to cast an early vote usually relied on finding a candidate she believed in and think will be a strong advocate for her community. But during COVID times, things are naturally different, so she had to weigh-in the possibility of having to self-isolate or getting sick, which encouraged her to get to the polls early.
“In previous non pandemic elections, I was more keen to wait until Election Day…we just knew with COVID there is a chance we might not be able to go,” she said.
While she’s glad to have voted early, Taylor said the location of the advance poll was fairly inconvenient for her and could be the reason she saw limited traffic there.
“It was not a convenient location for many people,” she said.
In Winnipeg, the location was not a problem for Susan Ainley who was able to vote at the VIA Rail station in downtown Winnipeg. Ainley, who said she’s never missed an election of any sort, described the process as streamlined and as easy as previous years.
“It felt very safe, very easy,” she said.
Ainley, who said she doesn’t mind voting in person, is feeling a sense of relief knowing she doesn’t have to make time out on election day to vote and potentially around a swarm of others.
“I don’t have to think about it now. I’m not hemming and hawing,” she said.
Much like the other voters, Ainley said she thought that she had reached her bandwidth with COVID-19 news, and trying to follow an election from a distance was a challenge.
“I found for me it wasn’t so easy to get that information as maybe in past years you could just show up at a forum and get a lot of information at one time,” she said.
While advance voting has ended, eager voters can still cast their voters in person at an Elections Canada office until 6pm on the 14th. Alternatively, electors can apply for a mail-in ballot by that time and those ballots must be returned to Elections Canada by the end of Election Day.