Elections Canada prepares for more masked voters on Monday

Elections Canada says its staff is ready for any voter who wants to cast a ballot, even with a covered face.

Elections staff trained to deal with voters who want to cover their faces

"We need to quit pretending it's not an issue."

7 years ago
Duration 1:16
Ken Finlayson explains why he wore his hat and mask to vote

Elections Canada says its staff are ready for any voters who want to cast a ballot, even if their faces are covered.

That message comes after Ken Finlayson created a stir by voting at an Edmonton advance poll wearing a cowboy hat and a scarf covering everything but his eyes. 

"The fact that we did have some people showing up with their face covered at the advance polls, I'm sure staff will be prepared to help them vote just as they would with any other elector," said Leanne Nyirfa, a spokesperson with Elections Canada.

Finlayson, 69, became known as the "cowboy voter" after walking into a Riverbend advance poll masked and in western wear.

The long-time rancher and now truck driver told CBC News he did it as a protest against a woman being allowed to take a citizenship oath wearing the niqab face covering, an event that triggered national interest.

Other voters have shown up with faces covered at advance polls across the country.

"As we know, this is not illegal under the Canada Elections Act," said Nyirfa. "So staff should be trained, having gone through the advance polls and having probably dealt with people who did show up with their face covered, staff should be familiar with the process."

If a voter with a face covering does show up at the polls, they're offered the choice of showing their face or taking an oath. If the voter doesn't want to show their face, they're asked to sign an oath and then to show proof of their identity and address.

Those were all things Finlayson said he was prepared to do. But he claims he was never asked until after he cast his ballot. He said he refused and walked out. 

Elections Canada won't talk about that but insists its staff know what to do to make sure proper procedures are followed on election day. 

In addition to their experiences from the advance polls, all 250,000 Elections Canada staff across the country have gone through training to prepare them. And all have a guidebook to get them ready for election day.

"Within that guidebook is a section that addresses what to do if an elector shows up and wishes to vote with their face covered," explained Nyirfa.

Central poll supervisors are also available if any Elections Canada staff have questions about the process. That's "if anybody is unsure about the process or they've served an elector with a face covering for the first time and they wish to confirm the process there is somebody there to help them," said Nyirfa.

Some voters have showed up to cast ballots across the country wearing ghost and clown costumes.  A woman from Calgary wore a ski mask to vote.

But in spite of the trend this election, Elections Canada has no concerns any of these stunts will lead to delays and long lineups, even though there are extra steps for staff dealing with those cases.

That's partly because on election day Monday, compared to the advance polls, there's actually less paperwork for people who show up with their faces covered.

At the advance polls, to make sure the voter is struck from the voters list, people have to write their name and address on an additional form.

There's no such requirement on election day, and there are also many more polling stations and ballot boxes to speed things up.

During the 2011 election, there were 392 advance polls, while on election day there more than 7,000 polling stations.

"At the regular polls we're going to see a number of lineups and a number of ballot boxes where people can cast their vote, so the process for regular polls does tend to go a little bit quicker," said Nyirfa

Polls in Alberta open at 7:30 a.m. Monday and close at 7:30 p.m.         


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