Some voting delayed amid ballot shortages, staff no-shows

Voter turnout was expected to be high in Canada's 42nd federal election but some people reported problems at their polling stations, including a few cases of too few ballots.

Ballot shortages, staff no-shows, small fire among polling station woes

Voter turnout was expected to be high in Canada's 42nd federal election but some people reported problems at their polling stations, including a few cases of too few ballots.

Amid reports that the Toronto riding of Eglinton–Lawrence was running out of ballots, an Elections Canada spokesperson told CBC News that ridings are allowed to photocopy blank ballots to make more.

Some First Nations also reported running out of ballots.

Elections Canada confirmed a higher-than-expected number of people came out to vote at Siksika First Nation near Calgary. However, she said the returning officer was getting more ballots and voters had been asked to wait about 20 minutes until a few more boxes arrived.

Some in Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg said polls in their ridings opened considerably later than the times mandated by Elections Canada. The late openings were apparently caused primarily by lack of staffers and paperwork. (Paul Daly/Canadian Press)

In northwestern Ontario, Shoal Lake 40 First Nation electoral officer Samantha Redsky told CBC News the community ran out of ballots for about an hour in the afternoon. 

Onigaming First Nation, also in northwestern Ontario, ran out of ballots as well, said Tania Cameron, organizer of the "Rock the Vote" campaign encouraging indigenous people to vote. Cameron is also a councillor at Dalles First Nation and ran for the NDP in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. She said more ballots were being delivered. 

Some polling stations experienced other problems on Monday, including the hotly contested riding of Winnipeg Centre, which opened up to an hour late Monday morning because many Elections Canada workers cancelled at the last minute.

Spokeswoman Marie-France Kenny would not say exactly how many people didn't show up as promised, but said it was more than a dozen. She said Elections Canada has lists of people on standby in case of cancellations. 

Lineups formed outside some polls as workers were brought in from other electoral districts. Kenny said some polls could stay open past the 8:30 p.m. CT closing time depending on the demand.

Voting day problems

8 years ago
Duration 2:43
Elections Canada continues to have problems at polling stations across the country, CBC's Micheal Serapio reports

In Thunder Bay–Rainy River, one polling station at a school had to improvise when the fire alarm went off and the building had to be evacuated at about 8:30 p.m. ET. Lakehead Public Schools confirmed there was a small fire in the school, which firefighters quickly put out. Polling staff moved everything outside and voting continued for about an hour until the polls closed, the riding's returning officer said. 

Many problems were first reported on social media outlets such as on Twitter and Facebook, and have not been independently confirmed by CBC News.

Some voters in Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg posted that the polls in their ridings opened considerably later than the times mandated by Elections Canada. The late openings were apparently caused primarily by not enough staffers or a lack of the necessary paperwork, like a list of registered voters in a particular riding. 

At one polling place in downtown Toronto, where polling stations were supposed to open at 9:30 a.m. ET, an Elections Canada officer reportedly did not arrive until nearly 11 a.m. ET. At another location in the city, a ballot box did not arrive until about 10:30 a.m. ET, resulting in long wait times for voters who had lined up to cast a ballot.

One voter in a riding north of Toronto tweeted a photo that she said was of her friend's voter information card, which directed her to a mobile polling station that closed at 1:30 p.m. 

Elections Canada spokesman Dugald Maudsley said that because mobile polling stations have to move from place to place, such as seniors' residences, they aren't open for the full 12 hours like regular polling stations. 

In Fredericton, Stephanie Merrill tweeted that she was handed a ballot that had already been marked by another voter. 

It appears she received a spoiled ballot. Merrill said she asked for, and received, a fresh one. 

Elections Canada spokesman Francoise Enguehard would not comment on a specific case, but did say the protocol for spoiled ballots is to put them in a separate box and count them at the end of the day. 

Enguehard acknowledged that errors can happen.

"[Poll station workers] are not machines, they are people and there are a lot of demands and [they are] under a lot of stress … and people make mistakes. It happens."

There were also several reports of people being told that the identification that they had brought with them was not enough to cast a ballot, even in situations when that identification was a driver's licence, which, according to Elections Canada's website, is sufficient to vote. Some people on social media also complained that Elections Canada volunteers seemed unprepared to handle the workload of the day. 

The Elections Canada website was briefly unavailable Monday morning due a high volume of traffic, though the problems lasted less than half an hour. 

New election landscape

Election observers watched closely as an important new wrinkle unfolded Monday evening. For the first time, it is legal to transmit election results across time zones into areas of the country where polls have not yet closed — ending an old blackout policy that was becoming all but impossible to enforce in the era of social media.

The parties pushed hard to supporters at rallies over the weekend, particularly the Tories. Candidate Peter van Loan, appearing at the party's final campaign event in Abbotsford, B.C., said that "some ridings will be decided by not who votes, but who decides not to vote."


  • An earlier version of this story reported that people whose polling places closed earlier than anticipated could go to an Elections Canada office to cast a ballot. In fact, the option of voting at Elections Canada offices ended after Oct. 13.
    Oct 19, 2015 8:50 PM ET

With files from The Canadian Press