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Federal election polling stations fewer and farther between, Elections Canada says

Pandemic means many schools not available
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Voters are scheduled to head to the polls on Sept. 20, 2021.

Canadians may want to have a second look at their voter information cards as people are finding polling stations are fewer and farther between this time around.

The cards are now arriving in the mail. Because of COVID-19 public health protocols, many of the usual elementary school gyms or church basements are not being pressed into service for ballot booths.

“We have fewer places available to us. We need to make sure that we can provide for health and safety at the polls,” said Andrea Marantz, B.C. spokesperson for Elections Canada. “We need to have room for physical distancing. We have much fewer schools available to us this time.”

If there’s a concern that you have the wrong polling station on your voter information card, Marantz recommended calling the local returning office phone number listed on the card to double check.

“There are some things that they may be able to do. And they may also be able to explain the specifics of why that's the best choice,” she said.

Voters will not be able to cast their ballots at polling places they have not been assigned to, either on election day or in advance polls, which are open from Sept. 10 to 13.

Also different for the 2021 federal election, there will be no on-campus voting at colleges and universities.

That is because the nature of a snap election does not give Elections Canada staff enough time to set up process ballots cast by people outside their home riding.

“The student population is from all over, so they primarily would not be voting at home,” Marantz said. “It needed a great deal of infrastructure to be able to work… and we didn’t have the lead time to get all of that ready.”

For those concerned about the accessibility of their local polling station or about their health and safety when voting in person, Elections Canada is recommending people vote by mail. That requires voters to apply by the deadline of Sept. 14. Directions to apply are on the voter information card, or it can be done at any local returning office.

If you haven’t applied by the deadline, your only choice is to vote in person on Election Day at your designated voting place or at an Elections Canada office.