Although voting for the federal election appeared to go smoothly in most parts of Toronto, there were problems reported at some polling places by late Monday afternoon.
At a voting location set up at the Chartwell Grenadier Retirement Residence on Bloor St. West, voters reported waiting up to 90 minutes to cast their ballot during the busy morning rush. The polling station in the hotly contested riding of Parkdale-High Park had a single voting booth set up, making for extended waits throughout the day.
Voters said election workers gave local seniors priority by setting up a separate line for them, but some required additional assistance from the half dozen officials on hand, exacerbating wait times for other voters.
By 2:30 p.m. the lineup had improved to about a dozen people, but Kim Brisbin said it still took 30 minutes for her to vote.
“That’s the longest I’ve ever waited,” she said.
She said it was “ridiculous” that Elections Canada only set up one booth, which when she arrived was facing the lounge where residents were gathered playing cards and socializing, giving voters little privacy to mark their ballots.
Brisbin said she didn’t urgently need to be anywhere else and was able to wait, but other would-be voters left when they realized how long it would take.
An Elections Canada spokesperson said the agency was “apologetic” if anyone wasn’t able to vote but the organization isn’t able to immediately investigate all information about potential voting problems. The agency wouldn’t comment on specific complaints about the polling location at the retirement residence.
Across town in the riding of Toronto-Danforth, power was out at the polling station at Bruce Public School in Leslieville for about three hours Monday morning, forcing hundreds of people to vote in semi-darkness.
Robert Penny, 65, said he was momentarily confused when he showed up to cast his ballot.
“I came in and it was all dark. Then I thought they were doing it on purpose or whatever, right? Somebody’s trying to sabotage it!” he joked.
He said the lights came on as he marked his ballot.
An election official at the school, who declined to give her full name because she wasn’t authorized to speak to media, said the training her staff received from Elections Canada didn’t cover blackouts so they had to improvise.
Officials collected flashlights and stuck electronic lights in the voting booths, and local residents brought lanterns.
“We worked out fine,” she said. “That’s called, ‘just doing it.’ ”
Benjamin Weinstein, a Toronto resident who voted at Pope Francis Catholic School in the riding of University-Rosedale, said that around 10 a.m., election officials told several other people at the polling station to either wait or return later in the day because their ballot boxes had not yet arrived.
“It felt like some sort of mistake, but at the same time people are not able to vote,” Weinstein told the Star. “People are understandably upset. It’s a very violating feeling to be turned away from a polling station.”
A.J. Jey, an elections supervisor at the school, confirmed to the Star that the paperwork including voting lists required for two polling areas assigned to the Pope Francis voting location couldn’t be located Monday morning.
The issue was rectified about an hour and a half after the polls opened by a roaming Elections Canada supervisor who Jey said was able to supply substitute documents. Only residents who were registered under the two polling stations were affected, while people registered under other polling stations in the same area were able to vote at the school.
Jey said three people left without voting, while 11 others stuck around until the problem was sorted out. He acknowledged the trio who left were upset they weren’t able to cast a ballot.
“Everyone else realized, ‘OK, well, these things happen,’ ” he said.
Blackouts and misplaced voting lists were the exception, however, and in most places citizens were able to vote without issue.
Exiting a polling place at Old Orchard Junior Public School in Davenport, Marc Piercey said the process was orderly and quick, and he was in and out in two minutes.
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Piercey, a 34-year-old entrepreneur, said although he studied the parties’ platforms attentively he was struggling to decide who to vote for right up until he had the ballot in his hands. In the end he chose to vote for Liberal incumbent Julie Dzerowicz, who is trying to fight off a challenge from NDP candidate and former MP Andrew Cash.
Like other voters who spoke to the Star, he said he was turned off by the negative rhetoric used by all parties in the run-up to the vote but felt a duty to mark his ballot because people in other countries aren’t able to exercise democratic rights.
“It’s something that literally took me two minutes to do. You can’t take that for granted,” he said. “I might not like everyone in the running, but people around the world die for this stuff.”