TORONTO — Long lineups are forming outside some polling stations across the Greater Toronto Area after the number of voting venues in several GTA ridings were slashed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eleven GTA ridings, including the downtown ridings of Toronto Centre, Spadina-Fort York, and University-Rosedale, saw a more than 50 per cent reduction in the number of polling stations this year compared to 2019 and another four GTA ridings have more than 40 per cent fewer polling sites.
In Toronto Centre, which saw the biggest cut, there are just 15 polling stations for election day this year, compared to 91 during the last election.
Voters in various ridings could be seen lining up to cast their ballot before polling stations opened at 9:30 a.m.
“I can’t believe this. I waited over an hour, just about an hour I would say, to get in (a) line that goes all the way around the corner to vote here. I walked here because I knew that it would be a zoo,” a Vaughan resident said after casting his ballot.
“The traffic is unbelievable. People are not going to be able to park.”
Another voter called the lineup outside her polling station “ridiculous.”
“You can see the lineups. You can see the crowds. It is during COVID. I have a baby at home so for me this is not convenient. This is not fun,” she said.
Dugald Maudsley, a spokesperson for Elections Canada, told CP24 that voters need to be “patient” this year.
“We know that one of the most popular times to vote is just after dinner so if you can avoid that time then that would help and might make your time at the polling station go more quickly,” he said on Monday morning.
“Be patient. It is an unusual election. We are in the midst of a pandemic. Things are going to be different this year than they have been in the past and we just want everyone to contribute to making this as healthy and safe as possible.”
Maudsley said precautions have been taken to ensure that voters are safe when entering polling locations.
“There will be social distancing. There will be sanitation stations. Everyone at Elections Canada will be wearing a mask. If you don’t have a mask, we have lots of them, and we offer you one,” he said.
He noted that those without a valid medical exemption who refuse to wear a mask will be turned away from polling stations.
“If you are symptomatic then we would suggest that you do the correct thing, consider that you may have COVID symptoms and you are probably best to not go in and vote,” Maudsley said.
Polls are open until 9:30 p.m. Voters can still cast their ballot as long as they are in line when polls close.