What’s more important: The fundamental right to vote, or the quarantine rules amid a global pandemic that’s so far killed more than 4.5 million people?
It’s a question that one B.C. man had never thought of until he recently contracted COVID-19 and was told to quarantine for two weeks.
Dennis Kontos of Salmon Arm said he’ll be in isolation — as per Interior Health rules — until midnight on Tuesday, meaning he won’t be able to vote in Monday’s federal election.
Kontos said he understands the importance of isolating, but said when he tried reaching out to officials about how to still vote, he got the run-around.
“They’re basically telling me that I’m forfeiting my vote because I can’t go and vote,” said Kontos. “I’m a very strong, stubborn person when it comes down to voting; I think that’s our right to do that.
“I vote every time and I find (this) very unacceptable.”
Kontos said he’s not asking to visit a polling station, “but they should have thought of a plan in advance for this circumstance, and they haven’t.”
He claimed information on Election Canada’s website about voting and COVID-19 directed him to his local health agency, Interior Health, where he asked about alternate ways to vote.
He said Interior Health told him to contact his Member of Parliament. From there, he said he was told to contact Elections Canada, which then again referred him to Interior Health.
“As you can see, we’re going around in circles.”
Kontos said he started feeling sick Sunday night, then went for curbside testing on Monday afternoon.
His test came back positive on Wednesday night, with Interior Health contacting him on Thursday about isolating until Sept. 22.
He said he planned on visiting advanced polls last Monday, but that his plans changed after getting sick.
“Nobody has a solution,” said Kontos. “There are literally thousands of people across the country who are going to be in the same boat as I am — if we got diagnosed before election day on Monday.”
As for requesting a special mail-in ballot, he said the deadline to apply had passed by the time he found out he was sick.
“The only option (after advanced polls and the mail-in ballot deadline) is to vote in person, at the polls,” said Andrea Marantz of Elections Canada. “Of course, that isn’t possible for people who are in isolation.
“It’s not a matter of making a choice. It’s a matter of having to follow the law as it’s written (in the Canada Elections Act).”
Marantz said every year, things happen that prevent people from voting, adding “it is not a circumstance that’s covered in the Canada Elections Act.”
Global News has reached out to Arnold, the Conservative MP for the North Okanagan—Shuswap, for comment.
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Meanwhile, Kontos said he wonders why government can do curbside testing for COVID-19, but not curbside voting, and that there should be other alternatives for all such as absentee or online voting.
“They should make exceptions to the rule because we’re all stuck in this vacuum of not being able (to vote) and we don’t know what the next steps are,” he said.
“It’s our constitutional right to vote. That’s what we cherish here in Canada. That’s what we want.”