Vernon residents line up outside Kal Tire Place Monday morning to place their advanced vote ahead of the Sept. 20 federal election. Waits of up to two hours were reported over the weekend at advance polling stations. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

North Okanagan-Shuswap voters urged to be patient Sept. 20, avoid busier times

Steep increase in riding’s advance voters over 2019, might mean less voting election day

The increase in advance voters in the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding during the 2019 election outdid the rest of the country, as well as the province-wide average.

According to Elections Canada, the official number of advance voters in the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding in 2019 was 20,302, while this year, the preliminary number of people who voted in advance polls was 28,925. That’s a 44 per cent increase over 2019.

Meanwhile, compared to 44 per cent, the total of advance votes B.C.-wide this year was 13.5 per cent more than in 2019, while across Canada the total was up 18.5 per cent.

Sharon Morrison, returning officer for the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding, said it was a great turnout but voting was slower than normal due to pandemic protocols.

Just one person can work at each polling station. At the Fifth Avenue Senior’s Centre in Salmon Arm, for instance, which housed three polling stations, just three people were dealing with the voting process. Lineups around two sides of the building could be seen regularly during each of the four advance-polling days.

The polls were open to 9 p.m. each night, so if you arrived by 9 you could vote, no matter how many people were ahead of you in the line. On the final night of advance voting, the last vote cast was about 9:50 p.m.

Read more: Advance voting turnout up 13% in B.C. since 2019: Elections Canada

Read more: Advance poll popular way to vote in Salmon Arm in 2021

In 2019, there were about 107,000 eligible voters in the riding and approximately 74,000 valid ballots cast.

If the same number of people vote in this federal election, then approximately 40 per cent (28,000 votes) have already been cast in advance polls.

Morrison said there are 250 polling stations for election day, Sept. 20, in contrast with just 25 for the advance polls. She noted the riding stretches from Seymour Arm, to Chase, to Coldstream to Edgewood.

She said the three most popular times to vote tend to be before people go to work, during the lunch hour and after work – close to supper time.

Morrison hopes the public will continue to be patient on Sept. 20 as the people working will be doing the best they can – “wearing masks behind transparent screens, trying to do the job of two people and keep people safe.”

There may or may not be lineups, she concluded.

“If it’s like the last provincial election, there were not that many people. Who knows, we’ll have to wait and see. We can’t predict these things.”
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Canada Election 2021OkanaganShuswap