'Strong desire' for change behind early election turnout: pollster
Lineups of as many as 70 people started as doors opened Friday, Elections Canada official says
Long lines at advance polling stations could be a sign Canadians are looking for change, says Curtis Brown, vice-president of polling firm Probe Research.
"This is a very competitive election, and I think there's a strong desire on a lot of people's part for a new government," Brown said.
Big pushes by all three major parties also may have helped drive voters to the polls, he added.
"Once they get those votes in the can, those are people they don't have to (encourage to) vote on election day," he said.
It is hard to say whether strong advance polls favour any one party in particular, said Brown.
"Unless we were doing exit polls outside of the polling station, we wouldn't exactly know for sure how it breaks down," he said.
Probe Research's latest data on Manitoba voters shows a split between Liberal and Conservative support, with Liberals leading in Winnipeg and Conservatives dominating in rural Manitoba.
Elections Canada hires extra workers
The surge in advance voting surprised Elections Canada officials, leading them to pull in reserve workers to help with the crunch.
Marie-France Kenny, Elections Canada's media advisor for Manitoba and Saskatchewan, said there is typically an increase in advance voting each election, but the lineups were longer than expected this year.
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"Typically every election there's been an increase. We did expect an increase — not such a big increase. As well, the flow of people — people came right when we opened the doors on Friday. There were lineups already up to 50 and 70 people.… That was surprising," said Kenny.
Around 2.4 million Canadians have already voted.
Kenny said the act only allows a single ballot box at each advance polling station, so adding extra staff doesn't necessarily make things move faster.
"The act doesn't allow us to just set up additional desks when there's a lineup," she said. "We did as much as we could while still following the act."
She said it was important to note advance polls weren't always available to everyone.
"Advance polls were originally only available to certain electors, and electors had to provide a certificate and a reason for voting early.… The act later changed to allow advance polling for all Canadians," she said.
Kenny said while some people were frustrated, many people understood. Some poll workers even gave their personal cellphone numbers to voters so they could call and find out when the lines were shorter.
For anyone who didn't cast a vote during advance polling, election day is on Oct. 19.