Canadians dutifully marched on Monday to cast their ballots in the 2021 federal election, but some voted within minutes, while others were greeted with lines wrapped around buildings or stretched across several city blocks .
According to a tweet by a CityNews reporter, a line in the Ontario Pole stretched so far, residents were forced to wait along the side of the highway off-ramp.
Similar scenes can be seen across Canada. In BC, Twitter users showed lines wrapped around blocks outside a polling station.
Some voters in Kingston, Ontario were reportedly told they might have to wait until 1 a.m. to cast their vote.
Isabel Kosteniuk, who voted at the Ottawa Center, said the line outside her polling place stretched for three blocks. She said that at first she thought she was having a bad time – the after-work crowd would be descending to vote at the same time, she said.
But when she returned in the evening, the line was just as long.
“I think it was about 45, maybe 50 minutes after we were in line when we were in,” Kosteniuk said.
In a statement sent Thursday to Granthshala News, Elections Canada warned that there could be longer lines than usual on Election Day. It said it has recently reached more than 80 percent of the total recruitment required for staff polling stations across the country.
“If we are short of some workers, the election may have to wait a little longer,” the statement said.
The agency also said that it will have to ensure COVID-19 protocols such as outside lineups, physical distancing and one-way traffic through polling stations – which can also slow down the voting process.
Still, the wait time made Kosteniuk worried for those who probably didn’t have as much time as he did.
“I was able to monitor the situation and vote when it was convenient for me,” she said.
“But for people who, you know, didn’t have that much time for work or had other responsibilities, or if the stations were otherwise inaccessible, how difficult would it have been for them to get votes?”
Depending on how close the final election call ends, Canadians may be concerned about the fairness of the election as a result of these wait times, according to Ipsos CEO Darrell Bricker.
Speaking to Granthshala News on Monday evening ahead of the election results, Bricker said, “We may have problems on the fairness front with this election campaign.”
“Especially if it’s close and people feel they didn’t get the right to vote, they didn’t have the opportunity to vote that they believed they deserved.”
Bricker said the long lineup “could have an effect” on the final results of the election. This is because “in some cases,” only people who are “willing to wait a while” will cast their vote.
“We know that among parties, Conservative voters say they are most committed to voting today, followed by Liberal Party voters and then NDP voters,” Bricker said.
“So if an NDP voter comes and there is a long line, there is some possibility that the NDP voter will be less likely to wait. So these lines may have some effect on the outcome of some parties.
The Liberals are already projected to win a minority government in the federal election. However, handling the voting experience of voters who were forced to wait in long lines on election night remains a concern – even if some delays are to be expected due to the pandemic.
“It’s really frustrating to go through this, and to know that other people had to go through this as well,” Kosteniuk said.
— With files from Granthshala News ‘David Lao, Sean Boynton’