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Many Canadians waited in long lines for hours to vote in federal election

Waiting in line for hours late at night at a Vaughan, Ont., polling station was likely not the way Kay Baptiste-Douglas and her husband, Clive, expected to spend their wedding anniversary.

And while it was a bit frustrating, they felt they had a duty to wait as long as it took to cast a ballot, she said.

“A lot of people would probably fight for these liberties,” said Baptiste-Douglas, standing in line at a polling station in King-Vaughan, a riding north of Toronto.

The couple was among scores of voters across the country forced to wait in line for hours, some until past midnight, in order to vote in the federal election. 

Elections Canada had warned that lines could be longer this year because of staff shortages and COVID-19 precautions that greatly reduced the number of polling stations.

For example, the number of election-day polling stations were cut by more than half in 11 Greater Toronto Area ridings. One downtown riding, Toronto Centre, had an 84 per cent reduction in polling sites from the 2019 election, the largest decrease for any riding across Canada.

When Mackenzie Nolan approached the long lineup at his polling station in the downtown Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York late in the evening, he said it just didn’t make sense to go home. 

“If they’re staying, we can stay,” he said.

‘I think it’s important’

People there had been waiting in line for more than two hours. Although polls closed at 9:30 p.m., the voters were told that if they had arrived before that time, they would be able to cast a ballot. 

But that meant their wait could stretch late into the night.

That wasn’t enough to deter Nolan, who said he thought about how people in some other countries don’t have the opportunity to vote at all. 

“So, even if it is 11:30 p.m. or midnight that we get in there, I think it’s important,” he said.

Michaela Przybysz, a dual citizen who had been waiting in line at the Spadina-Fort York riding for two hours, said she expected the lineup would be long. 

“I think everybody should have their right to choose,” she said. “If I got to wait here 100 hours, I will.”

Riley Jackson, also waiting in line in the same downtown Toronto riding, said he had never experienced an election lineup like that before. Despite the wait, he said he still felt eager to vote.

“We’re lucky to have the right to vote, and I think it’s important for everyone to have their voices heard.”

many canadians waited in long lines for hours to vote in federal election
There were long lineups in several Quebec ridings after polls officially closed at 9:30 p.m. Voters who were in line by that time were told they would still be able to cast their ballots. (Submitted by Marie Connolly)

‘Really disappointing’

On the other side of the country, at the University of British Columbia, students were also forced to wait for hours to cast a ballot.

“It’s really disappointing that this is a campus with 60,000 people and there’s one polling station,” said Emily Malmgren.

Paige Holmes, a first-year UBC student, said she didn’t expect she would have to wait up to two hours. It was little frustrating, she said, “especially hunger-wise.”

But, like many others who spoke with CBC News, she said voting was “definitely worth” the inconvenience of waiting.

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