The opening two days of advance polls brought out a significant increase in the number of voters casting ballots ahead of the Oct. 19 election.

Elections Canada estimates 780,000 voters cast ballots on Saturday, and 850,000 people voted on Friday, the first day the advanced polls were open.

It brings the two-day total to 1.6 million, and represents a 34 per cent increase over the 1.2 million ballots cast in the first two days of advance polls in the 2011 federal election.

"The number of people who came out exceeded the expectations that Elections Canada had, so in that sense, it was exciting that so many people are coming out to vote," spokesman Dugald Maudsley said in an interview on CBC News Network.

There were long lineups reported on Friday and Saturday at polling stations.

"Elections Canada is asking people to be patient," he said. "We're really keen for them to be able to get their vote in," Maudsley said. 

Big rush at beginning

Maudsley explained that two things usually happen with advance polls.

"One is that usually there is a big rush at the very beginning of advance polls. This has happened every federal election and that, as people tend to get going and get used to the process, things do tend to move more quickly."

And second, he said, "returning officers to have the ability if they see challenges at some of their polling stations, they can actually bring more poll workers on." 

Advance poll

Would-be voters reported waits of between 45 minutes and two hours at some advance polls on Friday.

"It's hard to know exactly what time of the day [voters are] going to come, how many are going to come when. Elections Canada does their best to anticipate these sorts of things."

What's more, Maudsley added, advance polls may take a bit longer because voters have to sign their name against their address and identity — an extra step that isn't required when you cast a ballot on voting day.

There were concerns that the Conservative government's changes to election laws to tighten identification requirements could create snags for certain Canadians, but Elections Canada said it has been trying to ensure everyone who wants to vote would get a chance to do so.

Maudsley said he can't speculate as to why there is such a large number of people casting their ballots in advance polls.

"Maybe it's the good weather, maybe it's the fact that ... it's a weekend and they're on holidays," he said.

"It's hard to know for sure what is going on through people's minds but I think that the bottom line is it's great that people are getting out to vote."

Advance polls are open throughout the Thanksgiving weekend.

With files from Canadian Press