Ottawa

'I'm absolutely disgusted': Voters turned away at riding's short-staffed polls

Nine polls in Ottawa West–Nepean didn't open on time on federal election day, causing anger and confusion for people who couldn't vote Monday morning.

9 polls in Ottawa West–Nepean didn't open on time

First-time voter Natasha Sauve was turned away at her polling station at Woodroffe High School and told to return later because a poll worker didn't show up. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

There was confusion and anger at some polling stations in Ottawa West–Nepean Monday as voters were turned away.

Polls were supposed to open at 9:30 a.m. in the Eastern time zone, but some voters found long lines and signs asking them to return later after election workers didn't show up.

"I'm very upset," said Natasha Sauve, who was turned away at poll 60 at Woodroffe High School.

The first-time voter said she hoped to return later in the day, but wasn't sure when she could.

"I work overnight so it's a bit of a hassle to have to try again later because that's when I'm supposed to be sleeping."

Poll delays in Ottawa West-Nepean cause anger, frustration

CBC News Ottawa

2 years ago
1:24
Voters in Ottawa West–Nepean expressed frustration this morning after several polls in the riding failed to open on time.  1:24

Glenn Saunders was also turned away at the same location.

"I'm taking time off work and this is just crazy. I've never had this problem before," he said.

He wonders how many people won't be able to return to cast their ballots.

"Everybody's got a right to vote and if they can't, [because] the polls aren't open, it's stupid."

At least one poll station in the riding didn't have official election signs posted telling people where to vote.

Eric Young was the first person to arrive at his designated polling station at Briargreen Public School.

He was able to vote, but witnessed other people who couldn't.

"I'm absolutely disgusted. I just can't believe this. What's going on in this country?" he said.

Eric Young was able to vote at his polling station at Briargreen Public School, but witnessed other people being told they'd have to return later. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

One voter said he convinced his 100-year-old mother to vote only to be turned away, while another called the situation a "mockery."

Backup plans took time

A few different polls can be set up within each polling location, but require two people to staff each desk.

People must vote at their designated polling station, said Diane Benson with Elections Canada.

Anywhere between 600 to 800 people are hired in each riding to work at both advanced polling locations and polls on Election Day, she said.

If someone doesn't show up, the chief returning officer has a backup team that can help out or a polling station can merge with another so that voters can still cast their ballots.

It was unclear why neither of these two options happened early on at poll 60, which didn't open until 1:30 p.m. after it was merged with another poll at the same location.

Seven other polls in the same riding also opened between 30 minutes and 4.5 hours late, according to Elections Canada.

For context: in 2015, there were between 180 and 250 polls in each local riding for a total of about 4,350 in the region.

Carleton issue

In extreme circumstances, voters can be given a transfer certificate to be allowed to vote at another location.

Benson said that only happened after a power outage affected some polling stations in the Findlay Creek area Monday morning and affected the elevators at one location.

While those polls in the riding of Carleton did open on time —  employees used cell phones and flashlights to help people vote — people with accessibility issues were given the certificate.

Meanwhile, the urban Gatineau riding of Hull-Aylmer is one of several ridings where voters have reported misleading robocalls suggesting voting actually takes place on Tuesday, which it does not.

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