The pandemic has a way of making its presence known, and Election Day in Canada was no exception. The physically estranged lineups that have become a fixture of Toronto during COVID-19 were a common sight at polling stations Monday as voters waited to cast their votes.
Numerous voters who spoke to the Star on Monday expressed surprise at the unusually long wait times. While some were almost put off by the prospect of a long wait, their desire to cast a vote outweighed the frustration of standing in line.
As cars whizzed past on the Gardiner Expressway, Kaila Simpson, a voter in Spadina-Fort York, said the long line and large turnout at her polling place at the Fort York National Historic Site came as no surprise.
“The year we’ve had, I was looking forward to it,” he said, adding that he had seen people quickly walk away from each other if another voter got too close. Approximately 200 voters were observed in Fort York by the Star, with the line following the path of the Bentway Trail to Bathurst Street.
“I really didn’t think (the election) should happen this year,” Simpson said. “Too much is happening and there is already too much confusion in our country.”
Long lines were a feature of Spadina-Fort York, a cavalcade that had only 15 polling stations for this election, down from 56 in 2019. A long line snaked around the voting table at the Canoe Landing Community Center before the polls had even opened at 9:30 am
At the Distillery District, a high turnout during lunchtime saw people waiting more than 40 minutes to cast their votes. Khaled Elabd, who was creeping closer to the front of the line when he spoke to the Star, said the long wait almost deterred him from entering the lineup. After a brief consideration, he joined. “At the end of the day, we still have to come vote,” he said.
However, Elabd felt that adding more polling stations could have alleviated some of the pressure on voters and poll workers.
Towards the end of the queue was Isobel Medel, who said the wait was a surprise. Medel came over at lunchtime to avoid the rush, but found that others had the same idea. “Hopefully it won’t be more than 20 or 30 minutes,” he said, adding that working from home gave him some flexibility to stay in line.
Like Elabd, Medel wished there were more voting options during the pandemic. “It would make sense to make it more accessible to people,” he said, going on to say that while he knew that electronic voting carries security risks, he would have liked to see the option, given the problems caused by COVID-19.
Despite the delays, there was a brief respite from standing in the blazing sun: A woman who identified herself only as Anita came with her two children to hand out popsicles to people still waiting their turn.
“It’s a hot day and there was a long line,” he told the Star, adding that he had cast his own ballot on Monday morning.
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