Problems at the polls make some Winnipeggers walk away

Some Winnipeg voters were turned away from casting their ballots on Monday.
The opening at the Duckworth Centre polling station, located at the University of Winnipeg, was delayed by 75 minutes due to a lack of staff. 1:07

Some Winnipeg voters were turned away from casting their ballots on Monday morning.

One person who stopped by CBC Winnipeg said that at the University of Winnipeg's Duckworth Centre polling station voters were being told to come back later. After its opening was delayed by 75 minutes due to a lack of staff, the station, in the Winnipeg Centre riding, opened around 9:45 am.

Polling stations were supposed to open at 8:30 a.m.

"It is ridiculous. I think they should have been set up way before at 6 a.m. sharp so we can actually do it when 8:30 comes," said Evan McIntosh.

"I just got off a night shift so I really want to go home and sleep right now. [I'm] not happy. I am really grumpy about it," said Angel Beardy, who waited an hour for the Duckworth station to open.

"It just shows the lack of resourcing that is going into Elections Canada today," said Alex Paterson. "I think there has been a lot of concerns with the election, coming out of the Fair Elections Act, about voter suppression. This could be an honest mistake but I am hearing this is happening across the country and was predicted.

"Voter suppression is the idea that you can take administrative measures to lower the vote in key places. So that was an accusation that was leveled against the Harper government after the last election when there was the whole scandal around robocalls."

Staff cancelled shifts

Elections Canada spokeswoman Marie-France Kenny said the problems were caused by "a bunch" of staffers who cancelled at the last minute. She won't say exactly how many people didn't show up as promised, but noted it was more than a dozen.

"It's actually fairly common," Kenny explained. "For example in one of the polling stations this morning, the deputy returning officer and the daughter were supposed to work together. The daughter got violently ill and the deputy returning officer, well it was her daughter, [so she] took her to the hospital."

Kenny said when the deputy returning officer wasn't going to make it in, they had to wait for the deputy returning officer's kit to reach the polling station before they could open.

"You do need deputy returning officers that hand you your ballot and verify your identity so we made sure we had people but we were unfortunately late in opening in some areas and it's unforeseen circumstances."

Elections Canada has lists of people on standby and can handle a dozen people calling to cancel, but it can take a bit of time to get them to the polling stations, Kenny said.

As a result, lineups formed at some stations as workers were brought in from other electoral districts.

But there were other hiccups as well. The polling station on River Avenue, in the Winnipeg South Centre riding, wasn't open until 9 a.m. because staff didn't have the voters' list yet.

At Winnipeg's Charleswood legion, a voter noticed a small mark on her ballot in the circle next to Conservative MP Steven Fletcher's name, says poll supervisor Carol Hadley. As a result, those working at the station today pulled 12 printed ballot books, and are waiting for new ones to be sent. 

Hadley says issues with ballots are not common, but it has happened in the past. The finding at the Charleswood legion will not cause a delay in voting on Monday, she said.

Polling stations are scheduled to remain open until 8:30 p.m. but that deadline could be stretched a bit depending on the demand, said Kenny.

Anyone waiting in line at 8:30 p.m. will be allowed in to vote, regardless of how long it takes.


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