‘Be patient’: Manitoba polls open on 2021 election day

Don’t forget your face mask, voter registration card and ID.

Across Manitoba, polls opened at 8:30 a.m. for people to cast their ballots in the 2021 federal election. Polls are open until 8:30 p.m.

This year’s election is different from previous years because of the pandemic.

There are fewer polling stations in the province because schools are no longer serving as voting locations, so Elections Canada had to get creative in the search for real estate large enough to keep voters two metres from each other.

“It will be a challenge, that’s for sure, because we have to try and keep people six feet apart,” said Michel Boucher, a poll supervisor at the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre in St. Boniface, just after the polling station opened on Monday.

“It will be busy at times. It always is. We just ask people to be patient and we will serve them the best we can.”

This year, voters head to the polls at local malls and community centres, but also at Winnipeg’s Ikea and the Assiniboia Downs. If you aren’t sure where to vote, go to elections.ca to check.

There are 21 candidates running on the Saint Boniface-Saint Vital ballot, the majority of them independents prompted to put their names forward by Sébastien Corriveau, leader of the satirical Rhinoceros Party.

Corriveau, who lives in Rimouski, Que., told CBC earlier in the month that he was motivated to induce the list after the Liberal Party of Canada failed to follow through on an electoral reform campaign pledge to get rid of the first-past-the-post system.

Mike Wolanik wasn’t too appreciative of that on Monday when he went to vote at the cultural centre, and predicted it was going to be a big headache for others, too.

“It’s going to be a gong show. The ballot’s too big. It’s too long,” he said. “The lady [poll worker] had a problem tearing it out of the book — the whole thing was just ripping.

“It’s going to be a long day for some people.”

The ballot wasn’t the only thing that bothered Wolanik. The election as a whole — just two years after the last one — was unnecessary and poorly timed, he said.

He didn’t say whom he voted for, but hinted at who didn’t get his vote.

“My mind was made up right at the beginning, because I didn’t think there should be an election when you have a pandemic,” he said, adding he went to the polls early Monday so he could clear his day to go fishing.

Victoria Alapa, who was voting in her second-ever election as a Canadian, expects the pandemic will make some nervous about going out to a busy polling station.

“But it is something that we have to do as a citizen, as a Canadian,” she said.

“I want to exercise my right to vote, hopefully for the good of the country. I pray that everything goes well and we appoint a leader that will lead us for the good of everybody, for respect for all and for peace in the land.”

Record numbers of Manitobans already voted in advance polls. Early voter turnout in this federal election is up 57 per cent in the Prairie province compared to 2019, Elections Canada said in a statement on Sept. 14.

About 1.2 million Canadians requested special ballot voting kits as of Sunday, Elections Canada data suggests, enabling them to vote by mail or at a local Elections Canada office. The majority — over one million — live within their own electoral riding. 

More Canadians than ever opted to send in their ballots by mail. In Manitoba, more than 30,000 people opted for a mail-in voting package. About 85 per cent of them live in their riding. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

During the 2019 election, only about 55,000 Canadian voters opted for mail-in ballots, with the majority going to people living outside of Canada. Only about 5,000 kits went to those who were voting from their own riding, Elections Canada said.

So far this election, over 30,000 Manitobans have requested voter kits, and nearly 85 per cent of those have gone to people voting from inside their riding. 

The sheer number of mail-in ballots means Canadians may go to bed not knowing the results of the election on Monday night. They might not even know who won by Tuesday morning.

Elections Canada isn’t counting hundreds of thousands of these local special ballots until Tuesday.

These ballots have to go through verifications, including ensuring those who voted by mail didn’t also vote in-person on election day.

CBC News will have comprehensive coverage with real-time results, big election night news and analysis about how the vote is unfolding, including how the results will impact Manitobans.

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