Newmarket-Aurora voters will have about 17 fewer sites to cast their ballot this election as Elections Canada contends with COVID-19-related public health restrictions.
Local officials have plans for 33 total sites in the riding this year, compared to 50 in 2019, a 34 per cent decrease. The decline comes with fewer venues available due to health protocols.
Elections Canada regional media adviser Dugald Maudsley said the exact total could change before election day Sept. 20, but sites will be fewer as officials try to keep voting safe.
“To ensure social distancing is possible, local returning officers have chosen fewer, but larger venues," Maudsley said. "In many electoral districts, schools are not available."
The decrease does not apply to advance polls in Newmarket-Aurora happening this weekend, with Elections Canada offering four sites, the same as in 2019. It is also offering at least two additional polls during advance voting in the riding, 19 compared to 17 in 2019. Maudsley said more people used advance polls in 2019, a trend he expects will continue this year.
Local parties have said they expect increased lineups Sept. 20.
“With safety protocols in place, you can anticipate bigger crowds and longer lineups on election day,” the Newmarket-Aurora Conservative Harold Kim campaign said.
Still, Maudsley said polling locations will be safe, and Elections Canada is preparing them by consulting with health officials.
“Those protocols will look very similar to many other environments you visit in Ontario — all Elections Canada employees will wear masks and visors, social distancing will be in place. There will be plexiglass barriers."
He added Elections Canada expects it can still offer a similar service to previous elections, given increased poll numbers on each site and an increase in Canadians voting by mail.
Maudsley said regardless of how citizens choose to vote, the key is having a plan.
“Voting in person at advance polls and on election day is still the simplest and most efficient way to vote. And, you can vote right now at an Elections Canada office," he said. "But we know people may not feel comfortable voting in person. That's why voting by mail is available and easier to apply for than ever before."
You can vote by mail as long as you apply online before 6 p.m. Sept. 14. Advance polling also starts in Newmarket-Aurora tomorrow, running Sept. 10-14.
You can find your polling location through a voter information card Elections Canada mails to you. You can also find it through the online Elections Canada voter information service.