Canadians dutifully marched to the polls on Monday to cast their ballots in the 2021 federal election, but while some voted in minutes, others were greeted with lines that wrapped around buildings or spanned multiple city blocks.,
One line at an Ontario poll stretched so far back, residents were forced to wait at the side of a highway off-ramp, according to a tweet from a CityNews reporter.
Similar scenes could be caught across Canada. In B.C., Twitter users showed lines wrapping around the block outside one polling station.
Some voters in Kingston, Ont., were reportedly being told they might have to wait until 1 a.m. to cast their ballots.
Isabelle Kosteniuk, who voted in Ottawa Centre, said the line outside her polling location stretched for three blocks. At first, she thought her timing was just bad — the after-work crowd might have been descending to vote at the same time, she said.
But when she returned later in the evening, the line was just as long.
“I think it was about 45, maybe 50 minutes later from when we got in line to when we were inside,” Kosteniuk said.
In a statement sent to Global News on Thursday, Elections Canada warned there might be longer lines than usual come election day. It said it recently reached just over 80 per cent of the total recruitment needed to staff polling stations across the country.
“If we are short of some workers, it may lead to slightly longer waits at the polls,” read the statement.
The agency also said it had to ensure COVID-19 protocols like outside lineups, physical distancing and one-way traffic through polling stations would be in place — which could also slow down the voting process.
Still, the wait time made Kosteniuk concerned for those who might not have as much time as she did.
“I was able to monitor the situation and go and vote when was convenient for me,” she said.
“But for people who, you know, might not have had that much time off work or had other responsibilities, or if the stations weren’t otherwise accessible, how hard it would have been for them to get the vote out?”
Depending on how close the final election call ends up being, these wait times could result in Canadians bristling about the fairness of the election, according to Ipsos CEO Darrell Bricker.
“We could have a problem on the fairness front with this election campaign,” Bricker said, speaking to Global News Monday evening before the election result came in.
“Particularly if it’s close and people feel that they didn’t get the right to vote, they didn’t have the opportunity to vote that they believed that they deserved.”
Bricker said the long lineups “could have an impact” on the final results of the election. That’s because “in some instances,” only people “who are prepared to wait for a while” will go through with casting their vote.
“We know that among the parties, the Conservative voters say they’re most committed to voting today, followed by Liberal Party voters and then NDP voters,” Bricker said.
“So if an NDP voter comes up and there’s a long line, then there’s some potential that the NDP voter will be less likely to wait. So there could be some impact on the outcome for some parties as a result of these lines.”
The Liberals are already projected to win a minority government in the federal election. However, for the voters who were forced to wait in long lines on election night, the handling of their polling experience remains a concern — even if some delays were expected because of the pandemic.
“That’s really disappointing, to have gone through that, and know that other people also had to go through it,” Kosteniuk said.
— with files from Global News’ David Lao, Sean Boynton