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Will COVID-19 vaccine passports affect my ability to vote? Your election questions answered

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Several provinces are putting in place vaccine passport systems that require residents to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to take part in some non-essential activities.

These new rules raise the question of whether unvaccinated people in those provinces will be prevented from casting a vote in person in the 2021 federal election.

Many voters have reached out to CBC News to ask whether that’s the case. Here’s what Elections Canada has to say about it.

Which provinces have vaccine passports?

Four provinces have announced plans to introduce some form of a vaccine passport system — B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

While the details of each plan vary, they all require people to provide digital or paper documentation showing that they’ve been vaccinated before being allowed to enter a wide range of establishments or take part in certain activities. 

Depending on where you are, proof of vaccination could become a condition to enter restaurants, movie theatres, gyms, sporting events, indoor pools and other public places.

Vaccine passport systems are already in effect in Quebec and Manitoba. B.C. will implement its “vaccine card” on Sept. 13, while Ontario’s “vaccine certificate” won’t be required until Sept. 22 — two days after election day.

Can I vote if I’m not fully vaccinated?

Elections Canada says it won’t require voters to be vaccinated or to show proof of vaccination in order to vote in the 2021 federal election. 

The B.C. government’s website explicitly states its vaccine card won’t be required to vote. 

A spokesperson for Quebec’s Health Ministry said in an email its vaccine passport is limited to activities deemed non-essential and a high risk for transmission. 

“Polling stations are not part of it,” said communications director Robert Maranda.

  • Have an election question for CBC News? Email ask@cbc.ca. Your input helps inform our coverage.

In Manitoba, a spokesperson for the provincial vaccine task force said it had advised Elections Canada that vaccine passports won’t be required to access polling stations.

Ontario’s system won’t be in place until after voting day.

In short, you can be unvaccinated and still vote in person at these locations:

  • At an advance poll between Sept. 10-13.
  • At an Elections Canada office before Sept. 14.
  • On the Sept. 20 election day.

will covid 19 vaccine passports affect my ability to vote your election questions answered
Elections Canada says it won’t require voters to show proof of vaccination in order to vote in person in the 2021 federal election. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

Will poll workers be required to be vaccinated?

Elections Canada says it isn’t instituting a vaccine mandate for poll workers, either.

However, the agency believes that the majority of election workers will be vaccinated given vaccination rates across Canada and the usual demographic profile of election workers.

“Public health authorities are aware of the fact that there is no requirement for election workers to be vaccinated and know that we anticipate that most will be vaccinated given current vaccination levels,” Elections Canada spokesperson Matthew McKenna said in an email.  

When it comes to reaching voters in care facilities and other vulnerable communities, McKenna said the local returning officer will, wherever possible, assign fully vaccinated election workers to serve the community on site. 

What safety measures are in place to ensure that polling places are safe?

Instead of requiring voters and poll workers to be vaccinated, Elections Canada says it has developed a suite of health and safety measures at polling locations and returning offices. 

These include installing sanitizing stations at entrances and exits, displaying physical distancing markers, mandating masks for poll workers and candidates’ representatives and providing single-use pencils to minimize contact points.

Surfaces at polling places will be cleaned every 30 to 60 minutes and there will be only one poll worker at each desk, seated behind a Plexiglas barrier. Elections Canada will provide free masks at polling stations and voters will be required to wear masks unless they have a medical exemption. 

“Health authorities have confirmed that it is possible to deliver a safe election with our current approach,” McKenna said. 

“We will continue to work with public health authorities, follow their advice and adjust our plans, if required.”

Do you have a question about the federal election? Send it to ask@cbc.ca or leave it in the comments. We’re answering as many as we can leading up to election day. You can read our answers to other election-related questions here.

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