Special voting stations open for evacuees, others affected by Manitoba storm

Polls have opened on a drizzly election day in Winnipeg, where last-minute arrangements were made over the past week to ensure everyone eligible to cast a ballot has the chance to do so.

Elections Canada has set up a special polling station inside the University of Winnipeg’s Convocation Hall to accommodate people temporarily living in the city after a snowstorm 10 days ago knocked out power to a number of remote First Nations communities.

“A lot of people are frustrated,” said Yolanda Thompson, a volunteer helping the evacuees. “I’m not even sure if they brought their IDs, so we’re going to try to do the best to help them out.”

A total of 13 polls will be set up in the hall for the evacuees. Like everyone else in the province, they can cast their ballots starting at 8:30 a.m. until polls close at 8:30 p.m.

“We also have polling stations in the [13] ridings for people who didn’t evacuate,” said Elections Canada spokesperson Marie-France Kenny, who helped oversee the setup Monday morning at the university.

A special polling station for storm evacuees is set up at the University of Winnipeg on Monday. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

Elections Canada spokesperson Marie-France Kenny says there are also polling stations in the ridings so those who didn’t leave can vote. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

Special arrangements have been made for more people than the evacuees, she said.

Hydro and telecom workers dispersed around the province, trying to restore the connections to those communities — and many other hard-hit communities, such as Ashern, Arborg, Portage la Prairie and Dauphin — are being allowed to vote by special ballot.

That includes workers from Manitoba and those who have come to the province from Saskatchewan and Ontario to help.

Kenny said under the Canada Elections Act, the chief electoral officer has the power and discretion to adapt voting procedures in exceptional situations, including a state of emergency, to ensure voting is accessible.

“It was an adaptation made by the CEO to make sure that we can let hydro workers who are in areas not in their riding to vote,” she said on the weekend.

Even with all of the extra efforts being made to make sure people can vote, there still could be a few hiccups.

Some polling stations in the province could experience reduced hours of operation due to power outages related to ongoing storm-related work, Elections Canada has cautioned.

Voters are being advised to check the Elections Canada website for updates.