Voter Suppression?

The Official Advance Polls for the 2015 federal election opened at noon today. As I wrote previously, this election campaign has gone on far too long and I wanted to cast my vote and forget about it. My experience was an interesting and totally novel one.

In the old days (way back when) municipal, provincial and federal elections were held at the local school. Typically, a large room near the front door was set aside for several polls. The rooms were spacious, airy, and perfectly comfortable. Tables with the election official and the party scrutineers would be set up at each polling station around the room, to process the voters. Voters formed a line and, with the help of assistants, approached the appropriate tables as they cleared. As each voter gave their name, accompanied by their voter information card or other identification, the official found it on the voters list, provided a ballot, and the voter went behind a screen to vote. It was a congenial process, civilized and comfortable.

That was not my experience today. Two advance polls were located in a stuffy little room on the main floor of a local church partially renovated for commercial and residential uses. Voters entered the building into a narrow corridor and were first directed to a table where officials checked their voter’s card, their identification and the list. Then they were directed to stand at the end of a line of voters waiting to enter the little room where the two polls were located.

I arrived at the voting station at 12:15, shortly after it first opened. Already, the line up of voters pre-screened for voting extended into the narthex of the church. Several older folk, including myself, were permitted to sit in the few chairs jammed along the edge of the corridor. It was hot, stuffy, and already congested, as we waited patiently to be admitted into the actual room where voting took place. An assistant guarded that door, letting three voters per poll in at a time. Although people were generally congenial, the process was cumbersome and uncomfortable. Clearly the venue was far too small for those waiting to vote and all the officials.

When it came my turn, I presented my card and identification to the two officials at the polling desk as I had been instructed to do. One turned over the pages of the voters list, found my name, and expressed concern. My name was already crossed off, not by pen or pencil as would have been the case if it had been done by a live official, but apparently there was a computer-generated line through my name. You can imagine my surprise! The official indicated that the line through my name meant either that I had voted already, or that I had requested that my name be removed from the list. Clearly not the case. What is this? How come I was struck from the list? Was there now a ban on bloggers voting?

The returning officer had a problem. He took my voter info card and went to check the list at the identification table where I had already been cleared. He asked me to accompany him. On that list, there was no line through my name. He could give no explanation for why my name had been struck from one list and not the other. Nor for why my name had been struck from one list at all. He produced a form for me to fill out, attesting to how long I have lived in the riding (since 1977), and requesting that my name be added to the list. They gave me my ballot, I voted and that was that.

Moral of the story: This was the first hour of the first day of the advance polls. My companion and I required nearly 40 minutes to vote. And there was a problem. I would be interested in knowing if other people have problems voting. And how long it takes you to vote. And whether all voting stations are so cramped and crowded. Be warned.

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  1. Karen

    I waited 1 1/2 hours to vote due to the turn out. And the whole time I was there the line stayed the same. In fact some people left without voting. I’m sure they will return at another time. Interesting in that I’m on the west coast of Canada. I hope this is a sign to come. I hope they are ready for the crowds throughout the voting sessions. This will be an interesting election. I also hope that everyone who wants to be registered is able to register to vote. I also hope the experience Marion had is an isolated case or I will very much doubt the legitimacy of the election with so many unexplained computer glitches.

  2. Jill

    That’s a frightening story which should accompany Andrew Coynes article this morning on getting out the vote

    For the record, I went to vote at 351 Christie at about 7:40 – the end of the same first day. There was nobody there and it went smoothly though I wondered about the physical layout – around a corridor In the lobby of the residence – with more than just a handful of folks it would have been unworkable. A school would be better.
    Using schools has the added advantage of bringing the culture of voting to kids. I always traipse my kids down to see and chat with the returning officer at the poll.
    Retirement residences make it easier for older residents which is great but may not entice the youngest voters who are already reluctant.

  3. Marylyn

    Hi Marion,

    Like you, I decided to vote at the advance poll and got to Metropolitan United Church at about 1pm. The line of people waiting to vote extended out the side door. Around 15 minutes later I was inside, at the end of Line 2 with 14-15 people in front of me. Next to Line 2, separated by masking tape on the floor, were perhaps a dozen people in Line 1. Time passed and neither line seemed to move at all. When I asked a worker how long we would have to wait, she didn’t know, but told us that Line 2 would be taken care of after Line 1 had all voted. By now it was 1:45. I had to go to my volunteer job and hadn’t yet had lunch so I left. On my way out I met an acquaintance standing in line. She suggested we go to the Elections Canada office to vote; it was a block away. We did, and were told that since it wasn’t a regular poll, we would have to fill out forms, one at a time, and the procedure would take at least 15-20 minutes for each of us.

    I gave up. Perhaps like you, I had been struck from the voters list…but I never got close enough to find out! ….

  4. Deborah

    Take heart Marion. Today at the West Van community centre coffee shop there were 4 tip jars – put your tip in the jar of whom you want to be Canada’s next PM. Of course I peeked and the Trudeau jar was fuller than any other jar by far!

    Sounds like a good thing I voted in the advance advance polling station!


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