Advance polls open across Saskatchewan

The first day of advance polling began across Canada on Friday as poll workers prepared to receive early voters as safely as possible.

Marie-France Kenny, a Regina-based regional media advisor for Elections Canada, said COVID safety measures created some long lines around the province, but poll workers are well-equipped to deal with it.

“It’s been busy at most polling locations,” Kenny said during an interview on Friday. “I am at one polling location today, and there’s been a constant flow of people.”

Elections Canada has asked voters to wear masks and stay physically distanced while lining up to vote. They’ve also created hand sanitizer stations at each location, and have only one poll worker per desk instead of two.

Masks are required at polling stations located inside buildings that require them for entry. Voters are also encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil, although single-use pencils will also be available.

Kenny said it’s not unusual to see line-ups the first day of an advance poll as new election staff get up to speed, and long-time volunteers get reacquainted with the process. She said it’s too early to say how the mask policies were received at poll locations across Saskatchewan, but voting seemed to proceed at a quick pace.

“There are some lineups at certain locations across the country, because we’re practising social distancing as well,” Kenny explained. “The lineup sometimes is very, very long, but things are running smoothly.”

Kenny said masks are available at all advance polls. Anyone who doesn’t want to wear a mask can vote by mail, or visit their nearest Elections Canada office. The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is 6 p.m. on Sept. 14.

Elections Canada is still short poll workers for election day in Prince Albert, but Kenny said that’s not unusual. They always try to recruit more volunteers than necessary in case of some have to opt-out at the last minute.

Returning officers across Saskatchewan have also had problems finding suitable poll sites this election, and the City of Prince Albert was no exception. Kenny credited returning officers for doing everything possible to find workable locations.

“At the onset we were scrambling to find polling locations,” she explained. “I think our returning officers worked hard, turned on a dime, and were creative and innovative in finding polling locations.”

Advance polling continues on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The polls are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day. Voters are encouraged to check their voter information card, or use Election Canada’s online Voter Information Service to find out where they can vote on those days.

Voters cannot use any advance polling location they want during a federal election.

“If we start giving out names of polling locations, people think they can go to anyone,” Kenny explained. “They choose one, and then they end up having to go somewhere else after.”

Election Day is Sept. 20.