Self-isolating Islanders disappointed not to be able to vote on election day

·3 min read
With advance voting over and the deadline passed to apply for special ballots, people who are now stuck at home self-isolating are out of luck if they want to vote in the federal election Monday.  (Lucie Edwardson/CBC - image credit)
With advance voting over and the deadline passed to apply for special ballots, people who are now stuck at home self-isolating are out of luck if they want to vote in the federal election Monday. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC - image credit)

At least two P.E.I. residents are disappointed they won't be able to vote in this year's federal election because they'll be self-isolating on election day.

Matej Hanzl and his family are required to self-isolate after his daughter was identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case Tuesday afternoon. This means Hanzl and his partner won't be able to go out and cast a ballot on Sept. 20.

"It's unfortunate," Hanzl said. "I've never not voted, so I've always like to have my say and put my vote in. I did reach out to Elections Canada to see if there's any other options. But if you didn't apply to do special ballot by mail, they said well, there's no option but to go to the polling station if you didn't vote early.

"Not having considered doing advanced voting or anything ahead because you don't expect to be in this situation, now we're stuck. And I'm just a little bit surprised there's no provisions in place for people in this situation."

CBC
CBC

The deadline to apply for a special ballot and to vote either by mail or at an Elections Canada office passed on Tuesday, and advance polls closed this past Monday.

Elections Canada says Canadians who want to vote must head to a polling station Monday.

'I was honestly shocked'

Jessica Stirling and her family were also directed to self-isolate after her children were confirmed as close contacts of a positive case.

CBC
CBC

Stirling said that when she realized she and her husband wouldn't be able to vote, she started making calls to see if there was any other way.

"The response was just like 'We don't think there's anything that could happen,'" she said. "I was honestly shocked."

"I have not always been somebody that's been really into politics, but I feel that over the years I've heard so much that our vote matters. So much. And so I've done what I need to do to understand politics better and make informed decisions, so now not being able to vote kind of feels like our votes don't matter."

Hanzl and Stirling pointed out that current outbreaks of COVID-19 on P.E.I. and in the rest of Canada means there are many Canadians self-isolating and therefore not able to vote on election day.

'Nothing that can be done'

Françoise Enguehard, Atlantic media advisor at Elections Canada, said the agency is prevented by the Canada Elections Act from changing the voting options offered to Canadians.

"The only latitude that is given to the chief electoral officer to make any amendment to the processes and the procedure would be in case of an emergency, in case of an unforeseen event or an error of great magnitude," she said. "And this does not constitute it.

"Every election, people are prevented from voting because at the last minute they have an accident, they end up in hospital, somebody dies away and they have to leave and they can't vote in their riding. And every election, unfortunately, some people are prevented from voting because they counted on doing it on election day and they can't."

Enguehard said self-isolation measures do not meet the threshold set by the act because they aren't of a magnitude affecting the whole electorate.

She said Elections Canada was very active in informing Canadians about early voting options and that many of the people who are self-isolating may have already voted.

"It's a sad situation," she said. "But ... at this point, there is nothing that can be done."

The agency estimates that about 5.78 million people voted in advance polling, a 16.83 per cent increase compared to the advance turnout in the previous election.

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