TORONTO – Many elderly voters, parents with young children and Canadians with disabilities did not vote Monday because they could not wait in long queues at their polling stations. Elections Canada has apologized but said there was nothing else they could do given the COVID-19 restrictions.
I always vote and I’m extremely disappointed I did not do it this time, said Patricia Au, a Toronto-based voter riding at UniversityRosedale. She was told twice on Monday that she would wait two hours. I lost my vote this year.
Farah Hassanali, a single mother from Ajax, Ont. with the five-year-old twins, was similarly discouraged by how slowly the line was moving to its polling station.
I had to pick up my kids from school and kindergarten and I could not go back to vote because my kids are small and I could not stand in line with them for hours, she told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview.
I set some time in my day to go and vote, but my past experiences have not taken that long, Hassanali said. And because a liberal victory was predicted before they had voted too much, she saw people leave the line because they thought their votes did not matter.
I do not think it was efficient and properly run.
ELECTIONS CANADA ‘BUT VORRTIM’ BUT DORST CONNECTED
Upon hearing the stories of people leaving the formations, Canada’s election media adviser Rejean Grenier said, “I’m sorry for the people who had to do this.
But he stressed that the agency had no choice but to run the election during the pandemic. This year, there were far fewer general polling stations on many trips across the country, due to COVID-19 restrictions which prevented many schools, churches or other buildings from being suitable venues.
“We had all the criteria set for us where we had no choice but to choose certain places,” Grenier said in a telephone interview. He explained that although the cars had fewer polling stations, there were more booths inside them, which meant that the total number of polling stations was generally similar to previous years.
He also noted that people who could not or did not want to wait in line could post by ballot on their ballots, or submit their ballots through advanced voting during the four days set earlier this month.
We are very sorry that people could not or would not stand in line, but most people were patient and did, Grenier said.
OLD VOTERS, Those with disabilities left
For many older voters and those with disabilities, it was less a matter of patience and more physical restraint.
Roy Bagnato and his wife, on the Ontarios York-Simcoe trip, told CTVNews.ca in an email that they were in the early ’80s and could not wait in the hot sun. Elderly Gord Bulllied and his wife similarly could not wait for hours at their polling station in Peterborough County in southern Ontario.
So for the first time in our lives we did not vote, Bulllied wrote to CTVNews.ca in an email.
Some other voters – like Patricia Farmer from Keswick, Ont. who use a wheelchair – said their physical abilities made formations difficult.
The cars were lined up along the main road. She was not moving and it would take hours before we could park, she wrote in an email to CTVNews.ca, saying this was the case twice when she left.
We have always introduced the importance of voting to our children and grandchildren no matter what, and we practiced what we preached. Well, this time none of us were offered the opportunity to vote.
Whitby, Ont. Nikki resident Yannique Henderson has cerebral palsy and feels very bloated because she cannot stand for long periods of time.
I think it is very disappointing. We hear from time to time that people with disabilities matter, but it will show that we have a long way to go, she told CTVNews.ca via text, noting that simply having accessible buildings in Wheelchairs are not enough to make areas truly accessible Me
Ideally there should be a line for those who may have mobility challenges, she said. We need to keep looking at ways to make the experience fully accessible from the start.
Her father, David MacKinnon — vice chairman of the Whitby City Advisory Committee — wished that security and polling station volunteers had shown more freedom in speeding up waiting times for older Canadians and those with disabilities.
I am almost 70 years old. I will not stand in line for that kind of time. A look at the lineup and we just kept driving, he told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview. It has been a long, long time since I voted in an election.
Election spokesman in Canada said in past elections, volunteers would often scan the lines to allow older voters to cross the line. But this time, the lines were too long and the volunteers were focused on moving the lines along them.
WHAT ABOUT ONLINE VOTING?
MacKinnon said more needs to be done for Canadians with disabilities, and these pandemic elections were the year to do so.
People with disabilities find it difficult to vote, even by mail ballot. A web-based voting system is needed, he said.
He said there should be a trusted voting program that allows people to vote online if they are completely controlled by the government.
Canada Election spokesman Grenier cited evidence showing how online voting as seen in the 2018 municipal elections in Ontario – unfortunately can be prone to mistakes and irregularities. He said that even if an infrastructure could be created, it would require an amendment to the Electoral Act before it could be used federally.
Although unable to vote, Hassanali said she had sympathy for the Canadian Election for organizing the election during a pandemic, but given the limitations of COVID-19 were known so far in advance, she wants to have more days before voting or more time to mail on their ballots.
I feel like my voice has not been heard and I realize that many people are in the same situation.
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