Technical problems with Elections Canada website, long lineups frustrate voters

·5 min read
Technical problems with Elections Canada website, long lineups frustrate voters
A long line at a polling station in Toronto on Sept. 20, 2021. (Christopher Mulligan/CBC - image credit)
A long line at a polling station in Toronto on Sept. 20, 2021. (Christopher Mulligan/CBC - image credit)

Elections Canada apologized Monday for technical problems with an application on its website that tells Canadians where to vote in the federal election.

The site's voter information service page usually lets Canadians find their polling station by entering their postal code and address. Voters can also search based on electoral district names.

But many took to social media Monday to complain that they were receiving the same error: "We were unable to find your voting location. Please call the office of the returning officer for assistance."

The federal elections agency told CBC News those difficulties were resolved later Monday morning.

"We're sorry electors were having issues with getting the information they needed. We were having technical problems with our online Voter Information Service earlier this morning, but those have since been resolved," Elections Canada spokesperson Nathalie de Montigny told CBC News via email. "Everything is back working as it should."

By Monday afternoon, however, the agency again tweeted that it was again having "intermittent technical difficulties."

In a later statement, Elections Canada spokesperson Natasha Gauthier said that the issues have been resolved.

Voters can also check the voter information card they received in the mail to find their location, de Montigny said, or call Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868.

Long lineups, polling station difficulties frustrate voters

Others complained online of long lineups, particularly in several Toronto ridings, and that some polling locations appeared to open later than 9:30 a.m. ET. or to be unprepared to receive voters.

"Opening thousands of locations across the country is a logistical challenge and can take extra time sometimes," de Montigny said. "We appreciate electors' patience."

Elections Canada had warned Canadians that the lower number of polling locations across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with additional public health protocols, likely would lead to longer lineups.

In a statement to CBC News, Gauthier said that the majority of polling stations opened on time but some polls have had to deal with some unexpected difficulties.

Poll workers did not show up at two stations in the Ontario riding of Kenora. Gauthier said that standby workers from other regions were sent in and polls were expected to open late.

Gauthier said a disruption in voting services occurred at a number of polling stations in the Toronto riding of Davenport, but voting resumed later.

A Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council protest disrupted voting at a polling location in Brantford–Brant. The polling place was relocated, Gauthier said.

Poll workers in two Indigenous communities in the riding of Grande Prairie–Mackenzie, Alta., arrived to locked polling places. Gauthier said that issue has been resolved.

A polling place in the Indigenous community of Yekooche, B.C., which is in the riding of Skeena–Bulkley Valley, has not opened for reasons Elections Canada has not explained.

In an interview with CBC's Power & Politics, Gauthier told host David Common that long lines and wait times were mostly due to public health measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"In some places, you may be required to wait outside for your turn just because they have to limit the number of people in the buildings," she said. "The additional sanitization and cleaning requirements also take a little bit longer. We have one poll worker at the poll desk as opposed to two ... again that's to make sure that that physical distancing is maintained inside the building."

"We do appreciate people's patience," she added.

Elections Canada had said that even if there were lineups inside or outside of a polling station at closing time for that region, everyone would still be allowed to vote.

Later Monday night, there were reports of huge lines and delays in Toronto and Greater Toronto Area ridings, including King-Vaughan.

WATCH: Pandemic protocols causing long lines at some polling stations, says Elections Canada

Voters can still register at assigned polling station

Canadians who are at least 18 years old could still register to vote Monday at their assigned polling station, which could be found by searching their postal code on the Elections Canada website.

Those in that circumstance had to prove their identity and address in order to register. If they recently moved and had identification that reflected an old address, they could still register using another document — such as a lease, mortgage contract, student card or utility bill — to prove the new address. A full list of accepted documentation can be found on the Elections Canada website.

Those who lacked supporting documents could also register if they declared their identity and address in writing and had someone assigned to the same polling station who could vouch for them. That person needed to be able to prove their identity and address.

Chief Electoral Officer said in June a longer campaign would be 'preferable'

In June, Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault told a parliamentary committee that, in light of the COVID-19 crisis, it would be "preferable" for Elections Canada to administer a federal election that was longer than the minimum 36 days.

"There is merit to a longer writ period in a pandemic, because everything takes more time," Perrault said at the time. "In terms of recruiting and in terms of finding polling places, it does take more time. Within the parameters of the act, in my view, a longer period is preferable."

Under Canada's election laws, an election period must last at least 36 days and no more than 50. The summer campaign called last month was set at the minimum of 36 days.

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