British Columbia

B.C. election worker quits due to long lineups

A federal elections information officer angrily quit and stormed out of a Vancouver Centre advance polling station Sunday because he said Elections Canada was doing nothing about his concerns about long lineups.

'We have made repeated appeals to our election headquarters,' says former worker David Beattie

Election worker quits

7 years ago
Duration 2:11
David Beattie frustrated by long lines, lack of support

A federal elections information officer angrily quit and stormed out of a Vancouver Centre advance polling station Sunday, frustrated by on-going waits that voters are experiencing and the lack of help from Elections Canada.

"Until a minute ago, I was an employee of Elections Canada. I have now quit," said David Beattie who has worked for six elections including this one.

"For all three days of this election there has been at least a 90-minute to two-hour [lineup] at this polling station," he told the CBC at the Roundhouse Community Centre where he was working.

He says at least four temporary elections workers at the community centre have also quit.

"We have made repeated appeals to our election headquarters ... to do everything they can to relieve voter frustration," he said. "They have done nothing."

In an email sent to CBC News, Elections Canada says returning officers are taking measures to accommodate the volume of electors while still following what is required under the Canada Elections Act.

At advance polls, the poll clerk has to write the name and address of each elector and have the elector sign the document.

Only then can the poll clerk strike the elector's name from the list. Only the deputy returning officer can check an elector's ID and hand them a ballot. 

"There is normally only one ballot box at advance polls," wrote Dorothy Sitek, who speaks for Elections Canada in B.C. "The act does not allow Elections Canada to just set up additional desks when there is a lineup."

Increase in polling stations, voters

In 2011, there were 3,258 advance polling sites while this year there are 3,423.

But those numbers are small compared to the number of polling stations available across Canada on the actual election day. In 2011, there were more than 66,000.

Elections Canada said 780,000 electors voted on Saturday, the second day of advance polls.

"This brings the total for the first two days of advance polls to 1,642,000," wrote Sitek. "This represents a 34 per cent increase over the 1,223,000 electors who voted during the first two days of advance polls at the 2011 federal general election."

Beattie says whatever efforts have been made, more are needed.

"You cannot persuade me that it's not possible to bring more people in to explain the situation."

Elections Canada's twitter feed is a long litany of answers to complaints from would-be voters with the responses full of thanks for patience.

Eileen Sallam and her husband waited an hour to vote Sunday. It was the second time they had tried to vote at this polling station. (CBC)

Voters at the polling station where Beattie used to work share his frustration.

"I would come in and see the long lines and go away," said Eileen Sallam, who with her husband lined up for about an hour to vote. "I came back yesterday and now I'm back again today."

Advance voting continues on Thanksgiving Monday.

With files from the CBC's Meera Bains and Kiran Dhillon


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