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N.S. woman wanted to vote in federal election, but COVID-19 symptoms meant she couldn’t

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A Nova Scotia woman says she was unable to cast her vote in the federal election Monday after developing COVID-19 symptoms over the weekend.

Marie Smith, 51, says she has always voted in-person, and intended to do so in this election.

“I really am privileged to be able to vote in my country, and being able to vote is very important to me,” said Smith, who lives in the Halifax suburb of Sackville, N.S.

But she didn’t anticipate developing COVID-19 symptoms on Saturday, after it was too late to request a mail-in ballot.

Read more: What’s behind low voter turnout in Canada’s election? Experts seek answers

Smith got a COVID-19 test on Monday and received her negative result late Tuesday afternoon.

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Smith, who works in health care, said she did her due diligence to self-isolate so as to not put others in danger. She reached out to Elections Canada to see if there were any other options for her to cast her ballot.

She spoke with three different people at Elections Canada before being told she would not be able to vote in the election.

“I had no idea I was going to be sick, and I told them that, because they said, ‘Why didn’t you … arrange something before?’” she said. “Well, why would I? I had every intention to just go vote.”

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Smith believes that since the snap election was held in the midst of the fourth wave of the pandemic, there should have been more options on election day for people in her situation, such as electronic voting, telephone voting or voting by fax.

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In a statement, Elections Canada spokesperson Françoise Enguehard said there were “numerous” possibilities for people to cast their ballots ahead of election day, such as voting at an Elections Canada office, voting by mail and voting at advanced polls.

“Elections Canada, at the very beginning of the election period and throughout communicated on the fact that people should make a plan to vote and be strategic about when they voted, in order to avoid a last minute situation such as the one you are talking about,” she said in an email.

Enguehard said electors had until Sept. 14 to choose one of the advanced voting options.

Read more: Lessons from an election campaign Canadians didn’t want

She said the Canada Election Act specifies clearly what these options are, and the chief electoral officer can adapt some provisions, “but only in case of emergency, unusual or unforeseen circumstances or a major error.”

“The fact that an elector cannot vote because of self-isolation does not reach that threshold,” said Enguehard.

“Every election, people are prevented from voting on election day by unforeseen events — accidents, emergency surgery, family crisis, unexpected travel.”

But Smith said more options should have been put in place on election day due to the ongoing pandemic, and worried that there were other people that were in the same situation.

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“With the technology that we have in place right now, to deny a woman in Canada the right to vote because I’m doing my due diligence and keeping the people that I work with safe and the public safe, is deplorable,” she said.

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