Most voters at polling stations across Winnipeg found few problems casting ballots in the federal election, but at least one location reported long lines until closing time Monday.
At the Fort Garry Curling Club on Archibald Street, lengthy lines snaked around the building past 8 p.m., with the polls officially closed a half-hour later. However, under Elections Canada rules, voters who arrive at a location prior to the closure are still eligible to vote.
Elsewhere in the country, in some Toronto-area ridings in particular, voters reported waits of more than an hour Monday morning.
Outside more than a dozen other polling locations the Free Press visited, no voters reported significant delays or concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic health measures in place. Most said the wait was on par or faster than previous elections they’d participated in.
Down the street from Westminster United Church, at around 2:30 p.m., 29-year-old Sean Goldstone said casting ballots took him and his partner about 15 to 20 minutes from entry to exit, which he recalled as similar to past elections.
"Pretty straightforward," Goldstone said of the pandemic voting experience.
Goldstone noted he had tried to vote at an advanced polling station in Wolseley last week, but decided against it after a poll worker told him it was a 45-minute wait.
"(Monday) was a nice easy breezy process... It always seems quite straight forward, and short."
Outside the church in Winnipeg Centre, a small-but-steady stream of people came and went.
At nearby First Presbyterian Church on Honeyman Avenue, Ryan, 38, who declined to give his surname, said voting Monday afternoon was nearly identical to previous years.
"Fluid, smooth as always," he said, noting it took about five minutes — and that's only because he stopped to chat with poll workers.
Shortly after 4 p.m. in Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, Pat Yakielashek said the polling station was less crowded than normal.
"Pretty similar, except we have masks on," the 63-year-old said in the parking lot of Good News Fellowship Church. As a retiree, she normally votes earlier in the day, but even at the onset of rush hour, her vote took just minutes.
Down the road in the contested swing riding of Winnipeg South, Sharon Shafto, 59, was expecting the worst before she arrived to vote.
"I'm impressed... it was organized," she said at the St. Vital Evangelical Mennonite Church shortly after 5 p.m. It took about 10 minutes to vote, and she's waited as long as a half-hour in the past.
At a Winnipeg North polling station on Aikins Street, 68-year-old Rose Ferguson said casting her ballot was "about the same — apart from the pandemic stuff."
Stewart Ferguson, 68, said it was well-controlled, with everyone inside keeping their distance. It took the pair, who've lived in the area for about 20 years, five minutes or so to vote.
Some of those first in line early Monday faced some hurdles.
Concerns sprung up on social media, when some voters were unable to confirm their polling station location online and there were long wait times on hold for people who tried to get the information via phone.
As of 11:30 a.m., the Elections Canada website was still not operating properly in some cases, with visitors directed to a phone number for additional information.
In the morning, outside of the Winnipeg Conservatory of Music, 19-year-old Ryan Tieu said his first voting experience was a unique one — he noticed boxes of masks and available hand sanitizer and said the booths were separated further apart than he expected.
"I was a little nervous, because I didn’t know what I was expecting, but the process itself was pretty straightforward," Tieu said. "I guess the longest thing was just the line maybe to get in, because of the spacing.
"I think if they were in normal times, it would’ve been a little faster."
Meanwhile, further north, Rex Ventura walked out of the Wheelies Roller Rink on Enniskillen Avenue surprised at how easy it was to cast a ballot, owing to the light turnout while he was there.
"It has been a year, more than a year, since we’ve been socially distancing. People are aware of the dangers now. I think everything went smoothly," he said.
David Morrice arrived at his polling station in Tuxedo first thing in the morning, in hopes of beating anticipated long lines due to COVID-19 accommodations.
"I’ve waited in line years past voting and it was longer (then)... so I’m very impressed," he said.
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.