Election 2015: Long waits greet early voters

An additional day of advance polling and more polling sites did little to alleviate wait times

An additional day of advance polling and more polling sites did little to alleviate wait times for those eager beavers wanting to do their civic duty over the Thanksgiving long weekend.

Traditionally Elections Canada has just three days of advance voting but this year they bumped it to four. It didn’t matter though as lineups — in some places 90 minutes long — greeted voters hoping to cast their ballots in advance.

North Cowichan councillor Al Siebring voted in Crofton about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. He said the wait time was about 35 minutes. That was similar to the wait at Mt. Prevost School on Sunday at about 1 p.m.

The lines were not unique to the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding, but nation-wide.

Close to 2.4 million people voted during the first three days of advance voting, according to Elections Canada. It represents an increase of 16 per cent over the 2.08 million votes recorded over the three advance polling days at the 2011 federal general election.

Elections Canada spokesperson Dorothy Sitek said in addition to the extra day, there were 602 polling stations in B.C. compared to 544 polling stations in 2011.

“We increased voting time, and we increased sites,” she said.

And yet there were still significant waits.

“In many locations,” she admitted. “While we prepared for a higher than usual turnout on the first day of advance polls, the level of overall activity exceeded our expectations.”

Returning officers were “definitely” taking measures to accommodate the volume of electors, she said, but could only do so much as the Canada Elections Act is very prescriptive about the duties of each election worker.

Sitek said at a grocery store when there’s a long lineup a manager can pull workers from other areas and open extra checkouts on the fly to ease the wait time.

“The act does not allow Elections Canada to just keep adding additional desks when there’s a lineup,” she said. “It doesn’t work that way. That’s not the case in a federal election. Voting is a legal process that must adhere to the strictures of the Canada Elections Act.”

Elections Canada now turns its attention to the big day: Monday, Oct. 19.

“Historically, over 80 per cent of Canadians choose to vote on election day,” she said. “It’s for that reason we have more polling stations open on election day.”

It’s expected 20 times the stations will be available come Oct. 19 and that may play a role in how long voters will have to wait their turns.

But whether the voters will continue to show up in droves is unknown.

“We don’t know until we know,” Sitek said.