A Comox Valley resident who lives in the Cumberland/Arden Road area is wondering why she has to go more than 15km to Merville in order to vote in the upcoming federal election.
Karli (last name withheld) said when she recently looked at her voter registration card, she was surprised her voting location indicated the Merville Hall, about a 20-minute drive away on Highway 19A.
She is registered to vote in the North Island-Powell River riding.
“I’ve voted in Alberta, Quebec and in the Lower Mainland, and I’ve never had to go so far away to vote.”
She realizes with a vehicle, and the flexibility to leave when she can as she works from home, getting to the voting station is possible for her on election day.
“If you don’t have a car, getting there is not easy. This area isn’t served by transit very efficiently. I know not everyone is online to groups or has access to information for rides and they may not see the options.”
According to the BC Transit website, a ride on voting day Oct. 21 around 10 a.m. leaving Cumberland Road (the closest stop is 800m away at Willemar Avenue at 20th Street) would get a voter to the Merville Hall at noon – nearly two hours of travel time one way.
The fastest trip would be leaving at 4:03 p.m., which would have an arrival time in Merville at 5 p.m.
Karli noted she has worked for Elections Canada in the past, and having a voting station such a far distance away “doesn’t make sense to me. It’s really important for people to get out and vote. It’s something that really should be addressed.”
She added most likely she will take advantage of early voting, which is also at the Merville Hall.
The fact that the Comox Valley is on the border of two ridings makes it even more confusing and frustrating for voters.
Some residents on Webb Road are considered part of the Courtenay-Alberni riding, whereas others are considered part of the North Island-Powell River riding.
The residents in the Courtenay-Alberni riding can vote down the road, at Arden School. Others on the same block have to travel to Merville.
The same situation plays out on Powerhouse Road, and other roads on the outskirts of Courtenay.
There are no advance polls in the village of Cumberland, whose residents have to travel to Courtenay.
Andrea Marantz, a spokesperson for Elections Canada said she understands the frustration when a voting location is a significant distance away for a voter, but added an alternative is to use an Elections Canada office (located at either 2435 Mansfield Drive or 2137 Comox Avenue) to vote via special ballot prior to Oct. 15 at 6 p.m.
“There is a complicated formula when (Elections Canada) decides where to place each poll. Roughly every poll has around 250 electors each. It’s divided up according to population, and we always try to have voters cast their vote within a reasonable proximity. There sometimes is an issue with boundaries, and sometimes (a voter) is just on the other side of the line.”
She added it is not always convenient for every voter, but “every effort is made to make voting stations as accessible as possible.”
For more information or find out specific voting stations and advance voting information, visit elections.ca.