REGINA — The sun was barely up but Elections Canada workers were already busy when poll stations opened this morning to welcome early voters.
Polls across the country opened today at 7:30 a.m. and will remain open until 7:30 p.m. for Canadians to cast their ballots in the 44th federal election.
Marie-France Kenny, Elections Canada regional media advisor, said that election workers are prepared for long line-ups and potentially some chaos, prior to doors opening at the super polling station in Regina this morning.
“We have safety measures and protocols that we’ve put in place, to ensure the safety of electors but also poll workers, so there might be a bit of a lineup and we’re asking electors to be patient,” said Kenny.
Voters are reminded that masks are mandatory inside polling stations, with and to bring their voter information card to help election officers keep the line moving efficiently.
“If you haven’t registered, you can still register today at the poll, and if you’re one of those who applied to vote by mail and haven’t returned your ballot, you can walk it in to your regular polling station,” said Kenny.
The Regina super polling station is the largest in the country this year, said Kenny, and also the largest in the history of Canadian elections.
Located inside a former Costco location, with 64 polling stations and more than 200 election workers on site, the Regina super station will see a large number of voters cast their ballots today — some of which were already lined up outside before polls opened.
And Regina isn’t the city holding large-scale polls, some in unusual places. Kenny said that returning officers had some difficulty in securing polling stations this year, partially due to the pandemic as well as the short timeline of the election.
She said places like schools, which are a common place for polls to set up, said no due to concerns about the increased foot traffic, while other usual locations were already booked for other use.
“We had challenges, and returning officers were pretty creative in finding polling places,” said Kenny. “I know that in Winnipeg, people are voting in an Ikea. I know they’re voting in a construction trailer in the parking lot of a food store, and I heard possibly in a funeral complex.”
Advanced polls saw a 20 per cent increase in voter turnout compared to the 2019 election, according to Elections Canada, but Kenny said she can’t judge whether Election Day polls will see the same.
“We’re expecting a large turnout,” said Kenny. “Lineups will be one of the challenges for today, but we’re pretty much covered and almost all staffed.”
Kenny reminded voters that patience may be needed, with wait times anticipated at most large polls and safety protocols in place.