Voters flood advance polls

Over the long weekend voters across the country cast their ballots in advanced voting ahead of the federal election day Oct. 19.

Arne Petryshen

Over the long weekend voters across the country cast their ballots in advanced voting ahead of the federal election day Oct. 19. Election Canada officials have been surprised by the high turnout for advance polling, and that is no different in our riding.

Rob Switzer, Returning Officer for the Kootenay-Columbia riding, said the turnout for the advanced voting has been quite high.

“I don’t have an exact number,” Switzer said, as the boundaries in the riding were redistributed prior to this election. Switzer previously worked in the British Columbia Southern Interior riding, but was moved into this riding when the boundaries changed to bring in Nelson.

“My experience there told me that advanced polls shouldn’t be this busy,” Switzer said. “It was incredibly busy.”

For instance the poll in Kimberley on Thanksgiving Monday took 444 ballots.

“To me it’s just kind of staggering,” he said.

He said his election poll staff, at least those in the bigger communities like Cranbrook, Kimberley, Golden, Revelstoke, Nelson and Creston, were taking large numbers of ballots.

“Some more than others, but all were taking lots,” he said.

He said three out of the four polls in Cranbrook exceeded 1,100 voters over the course of the four days of advanced voting.

He said while advanced polling is always a busy time for the polling offices, this was the first time he has had to send out extra ballots to contend with the higher voter turnouts.

“In this case I sent out ballots based on my best guess of how much they were going to go over, thinking that voting would slow down on the last day, not tick up. And I had to resupply several places, so that should give you an idea of how unexpectedly busy it was. It was so busy that I had to send out extra shipments of ballots, twice to some places.”

Switzer said the main change in the Elections Act that affects voting officials’ directives has to do with identification.

“There are always issues with people being able to supply proof of address,” he said. “Many people in our society have moved recently. And when you’ve moved recently, it’s often difficult to show proof of your current address, so not unexpectedly there were people that were unable to do that and were unable to vote in advance because they were unable to show proof of their address.”

Switzer said he was aware of at least one individual who was turned away because she was unable to prove her address. She was also unable to take advantage of the attestation provision which would have allowed her to have someone who knows her and lives in the same polling division to attest to her address.

“One person may attest for one other person as long as they: a) know that person; and b) live in the same polling division,” he said.

Switzer said the main thing people should know for Monday is where to vote.

If they have received a voter information card that information will be listed on the card.

If they haven’t received a voter information card, they can call any of the three elections offices in this riding to find out where they should go.

The numbers for the offices are: Cranbrook 1-866-754-5448;  Nelson 1-866-545-0621; and Golden 1-866-271-5377.

Switzer noted photo ID is not a requirement to vote.

“They have to present one piece of government issued ID that shows all of the name and address portions, or two pieces of ID — one of which shows the name and address and the other which shows the name,” he said.  “It’s important to understand that under federal legislation, the voter registration card is not one of those documents.”