Joan Goodwin has worked a few elections before, but this one seems a bit slower than most.
She’s the supervisor of the polling station at Comox Community Centre and around lunchtime on election day, she was finding fewer voters coming in than in the past.
One man pops inside the gymnasium and asks for a Voter sticker, but all they have left are Future Voter stickers.
“I don’t think I’m ‘future,’” the man jokes with the volunteers at the entrance.
It seems many people have already voted. Meanwhile, in Courtenay, the Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay saw its share of voters through the day, according to supervisor Stuart Higgs, though the turnout was not overwhelming.
“It’s been steady,” he says.
Most voters, he adds, have been patient in light of things taking a little longer because of factors like cleaning protocols or they have not complained about being asked to wear masks.
“We haven’t had any issues with people being grumpy,” Higgs says.
The slower traffic at the polling stations is not necessarily a bad thing in the midst of a pandemic. Nor is it a surprise, as many voters were expected to cast ballots at advance polls. Indeed, province-wide the number of voters casting a ballot early was higher than in 2017. The B.C. average was almost 20 per cent, while in the Courtenay-Comox electoral district the percentage was more than 24 per cent.
Then there’s the significant numbers who requested and sent in mail-in ballots. Elections BC reported that by Oct. 22, 478,900 voters had sent in the vote-by-mail packages, representing about two-thirds of those who requested them.
One result of the mail-ins is that we’re not expected to know the results for some time. That’s nothing new to Courtenay-Comox voters because last time the NDP’s Ronna-Rae Leonard was ahead by a razor-thin margin on election night. When the recounting was finally done, her advantage grew but still amounted to fewer than 200 votes. This time, the whole province will have to wait for those mail-in votes to be counted.
As Goodwin says, the fact numbers on voting day are down helps them keep the polling stations sanitized on a regular basis. Three young volunteers were busy roaming around the gym to clean up, while voting officers at each table were keeping their own areas clean.
There was sanitizer at the entrance to the voting stations, along with masks while many volunteers were also wearing face shields to help reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19. On the whole, people coming into vote were also being cautious while there, according to Goodwin.
“Most of the voters have masks,” she says.
Another thing both Higgs and Goodwin noticed is that there have been many people coming in to cast absentee ballots, away from their assigned voting station.
“They’re allowed to vote anywhere,” Goodwin says.