WINNIPEGGERS looking to beat the lines on federal election day flocked to the polls for four days of advance voting.
While the waits Sept. 10-13 may not have been as long as some expect for the main event Sept. 20, some voters still found themselves outdoors for upwards of a half-hour waiting for a turn at the ballot box.
"I’m voting early because I want to get it over with," Briony Haig said, while waiting Monday afternoon outside the Robert A. Steen Community Centre.
"I didn’t know what to expect. Last time we voted, it wasn’t COVID, so we could all be lined up inside."
In keeping with COVID-19 pandemic precautions, polling stations featured physical distance markers, hand sanitizers and long outdoor wait lines to avoid crowding indoors.
Voters at the Wolseley-area centre reportedly waited between 30 and 45 minutes to cast a ballot during peak times over the weekend advance polling days.
"We knew there may be a line, so we came when we had time to do it," said Anita Lebeau, waiting with her husband and two daughters Monday.
Lebeau and her husband had visited the polling station on the weekend, but encountered long lines and decided to come back another day.
"It just made more sense to be doing advance voting because on the day of the election who knows what the lineups will be like?" Lebeau said.
Approximately 1.3 million Canadians voted in the first day of advance polling, only a tick more than the 1.25 million on the first day of advance polling in 2019, an Elections Canada representative said in an email Monday.
Longer waits in Winnipeg are common, the representative confirmed, "largely due to providing a safe environment for electors and practising physical distancing." Only one poll worker is permitted per poll, and surfaces are frequently disinfected.
For nurse Wendy Tod, the wait was preferable to the extra risk of potentially busy and crowded polling stations on election day. But being called to the polls now was a frustration, nonetheless.
"Like other people, I’m frustrated an election was called in the middle of a pandemic, just two years into their (Liberals’ minority government) mandate — I don’t think that was a good plan," said Tod. "But I want to vote, that’s important, so I went to the advance polls because I’m concerned about the numbers next week."
While some polling stations saw big crowds over the weekend, some residents found their voting booths in unfamiliar locations.
As Katherine Dearborn made her way home from work, she stopped to vote at the Winnipeg Art Gallery — the polling location on her voter card — but arrived to find it had been moved to a nondescript trailer in a grocery store parking lot.
"I just wanted to get it done so I don’t have to schedule it into my day next week," she said waiting in line Monday.
Kyra Swartz, who also walked to the art gallery before finding out about the changed location, said while some aspects of this year’s process were frustrating, voting in advance polling was easier than ever.
"I think they were a little more clear about advance polling and stuff this year," Swartz said after casting her ballot. "In past years, people didn’t really know about the other options like mail-in ballots. I think people have done a good job making things clear."
For Kim Brennan and Doug Csuk, who showed up to their West End polling station at the Valour Community Centre in an effort Monday to "beat the crush," the process could not have been more painless.
"It’s less crowded, it’s easier to deal with, there with the six-foot distancing, you don’t want to be in anybody else’s face because you don’t know what they’ve been doing," said Brennan.
"It was nice, clean, they had it all organized — it was easy."
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.