Polls closed, votes being tallied on election day in Winnipeg

Winnipeggers have cast their ballots for the city’s next mayor, city councillors and school trustees and voted in a plebiscite on whether to reopen Portage and Main to pedestrians.

Including advance polls, more than 130,000 people had voted as of 4 p.m.

Winnipeggers vote for their next mayor, city councillors and school trustees on Wednesday. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Today, Winnipeggers chose who will lead this city for the next four years — and let politicians know whether they think Portage and Main should reopen to pedestrians.

Anyone who skipped voting certainly can't blame the weather. CBC Manitoba meteorologist John Sauder says the temperature reached a high of 13 C with clear, sunny skies.

There were 193 voting locations across Winnipeg and polls were open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"I think it's always a great day to get out and vote but certainly, no excuses today," said Marc Lemoine, chief electoral officer for the city.

Winnipegger Mary East cast her ballot Wednesday morning.

"If you don't vote then you have no say and then just whoever votes gets all the say," she said.

"Look at the States. It's desperate because people don't vote — they don't care — but it does make a difference. People have won by three votes, so vote."

For sports fans, there was an extra reason to get out early and make your mark. The Winnipeg Jets host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Bell MTS Place, with the game starting at 6 p.m. — two hours before polls closed.

It's actually to your benefit to vote earlier to avoid the lineups.

New Canadians, people who've just turned into Canadian citizens, you see them come to vote at our advance hall, some of them are so moved they break down in tears.- Marc Lemoine

"It's always very busy in the evenings. Last time [in 2014] we had 200,000 people come out to the polls and 100,000 of those came out between 4-8 p.m.," said Lemoine.

However, a record number of people casting ballots in advance polls may have cut down on the wait. This year, nearly 40,000 people voted in advance polls — a 30 per cent increase over the 2014 election.

As of 4 p.m., the city said a total of 90,523 had voted on election day, which is down from the 99,019 people who had voted by the same time in the 2014 election. However, with advance voting added in, a total of 130,363 people had voted in the 2018 election, up from 129,638 by the same time in 2014.

Bob Blanchard and his wife beat the lineups by voting Wednesday morning.

"It's an important role that we play as citizens," he said.

"It's important because we live in a country where we actually have some say in the political scene, and if we don't say it, it's not going to happen."

Mayoral candidate Brian Bowman arrives at his polling station on Wednesday to cast his vote. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)
Mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk casts her vote on Wednesday at St. Mary's Academy. (Warren Kay/CBC)

"If you can't get out before the Jets game starts "bring your smartphone along and watch the Jets on your phone while you're waiting to vote," Lemoine suggested.

Before the game, Winnipeg rock legend Randy Bachman played in True North Square as part of a televised pre-game concert, along with Doc Walker and Terra Lightfoot.

Dealing with minor disasters

Election day is one of Lemoine's favourites, a day when the people who call Winnipeg home have the opportunity to shape where it's going. 

"A lot of people, you know, take voting for granted here in Canada, but when you actually run elections, you get to see so many beautiful things happening.… New Canadians, people who've just turned into Canadian citizens, you see them come to vote at our advance hall. Some of them are so moved they break down in tears," he said.

Of course, things don't always go as smoothly as he'd hope.

"Last election, one of the places caught fire — or the place right beside it caught fire — just before the start of election day, so we had to deal with that," Lemoine said.

"We've had a couple of power outages during the day that we had to deal with, too. So there's always problems to deal with. And then lots of people problems as well, just, you know, making sure we can manage the people that are out there."

To reduce those bumps, or correct them as quickly as possible, Lemoine has 2,500 election workers and "borrows about 125 city managers and put them out in the field as well … to make sure everyone gets the rights they deserve."

The city sent out 510,000 voter's cards — with information on polling station locations — to those registered to cast a ballot. 

Polls closed at 8 p.m., although anyone in line at that time is still given a chance to cast a ballot.

Because the voting machines are automated, results should begin being posted online within 15 minutes, Lemoine said.

"After everybody in each voting location has finished voting, the operator there will press the button on the machine and the actual results will print out so scrutineers can see the results," he said.

"Digital results will be transmitted back to city hall, where we combine them and put them up on our website."

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