Advance polls see surge in voter turnout

With the opportunity of casting an early ballot over Easter weekend, the turnout at polling stations in the region and across Canada was a big success. In the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo, Elections Canada is reporting that 9,100 people voted over the course of the advance polling.

“We definitely had a higher turnout on Friday than was the norm,” said Ken Frey, the Elections Canada field representative for the region, before official numbers were released on Tuesday night. “I’m sure the numbers will be above normal from what we’ve heard.”

Additional staff were brought in to manage polling stations due to the possibility of a larger turnout than usual because of the holiday weekend, which Frey said contributed to the surge in voter turnout.

Saad Aslam, VP: university affairs for the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU), who has voted at advance polls in the past, agreed that even before it was confirmed by Elections Canada, it appeared as though more people were voting. “I usually vote in advance polls when it comes to elections but this was probably the first time I waited in a line, it was definitely busier than usual,” he said.

To prevent the risk of double voting, the voting process took longer than it normally would on Election Day. The wait in line was over 20 minutes each day and some people left and returned in hopes of a shorter wait.

In terms of the student vote – very important in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding, which is home to Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo and Connestoga College – Frey said it likely had little to do with the increase in voters, as the advance poll turnout nationally is reported as being one-third higher than in 2008.

However, according to Aslam, many students opted to vote this past weekend or by other means before they move to other ridings at the end of the school year.

“I talked to quite a few students voting in advanced polls or by special ballot because they’ll be on vacation or at home and want to vote here,” said Aslam, “There were definitely at least four or five students that had their student cards out at the advanced poll so there are definitely students who have been taking advantage of it.”

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