Elections Canada, the voting agency in charge of carrying out the country’s federal election, says that wait times at the polls may be longer than anticipated over a lack of workers as well as stringent COVID-19 measures.
The warning comes just days ahead of the federal vote set for next Monday, with Elections Canada preparing for a historic national vote amid the pandemic.
In a statement on Thursday, Elections Canada said they recently reached just over 80 percent 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 they had to ensure COVID-19 protocols like outside line-ups, physical distancing and one-way traffic through polling stations would be in place — which could also slow down the voting process.
While a longer wait may be the case at many polling places across Canada, the number of people showing up in person to vote on Election Day may not be as plentiful as expected.
Elections Canada estimated that roughly 5.8 million Canadians voted in advance this past weekend, setting a new record. The number marks an 18.5 percent increase from the 2019 election, which saw 4.9 million votes ahead of time.
Those numbers do not include special mail-in or returning office ballots, with the agency telling Global News that the process to count those final votes could take as long as two to five days after the election.
Elections Canada previously acknowledged a strong turnout at the advance polls, which were held between Sept. 10-13, and said that there “may” have been lineups at several locations.
Some advance voters did describe long wait times that sometimes stretched hours when asked by Global News this week. But others said the process felt a lot closer to normal than anticipated.
“It’s nice they went the extra steps to make sure it felt safe,” said Tamara Hinz, a child psychiatrist out of Saskatoon, Sask., in an interview.
“It was a great experience — painless and quick.”
Some parts of the country, including the Greater Toronto Area, have seen a reduction in the number of polling stations compared to past elections.
Due to the pandemic, Elections Canada also opted in 2020 not to offer polling at universities and colleges, citing a lack of clear information at the time and uncertainty about whether students would be allowed on campus.
Ipsos polling has suggested about a quarter of Canadians feel it is unsafe to be voting in person in the midst of the pandemic.
Only 16 percent of those surveyed said they will vote by mail in this election, while 21 percent said they are unsure whether they will cast a ballot by mail or in person. Just two percent said they are considering not voting at all.
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