Rain fell across the Saanich Peninsula as polling stations opened across the region, but the wet weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of students at Deep Cove Elementary School.
As voters walked into the school gym to cast their vote in Canada’s 43rd federal election, they skipped past students playing hopscotch and hanging out friends, their shrieks and giggles echoing through the school’s covered drop-off area.
“It’s a happy place to vote, because of all the kids,” said Tom Westra, after he and his wife Linda, had voted. Like so many this morning, they did not have to wait long to cast their ballots.
“There was no line-up, it was fantastic,” said Barb Butler, who brought her Labradoodle Boon to vote. “I was expecting more people here because it’s a pretty important election. But I think a lot of people have already voted.”
David Tonken, central poll supervisor for the Deep Cove polling station, confirmed this. He estimates that about 40 per cent of voters assigned to his polling station have already cast their ballots.
“Well, I think they were afraid of the crowds and wanted to avoid them,” said Tonken, when asked about the reason for the high turnout during early voting. “That was a mistake because the advanced polls were more crowded than here.”
Tonken said some 20 people had lined up outside the doors by 7 a.m. Monday. This initial rush has given away to a steady trickle of voters, many of them parents on their way to work after dropping off their children.
For Tonken, the high number of advanced voters is a positive development. “If we had advanced polls with lots of people, it means we are not going to be as crowded and people are going to be happy as they come through.” It is also easier to protect the confidentiality of the vote, he added. “It’s a really good experience for them [voters],” he said. “They are in, they are out.”
The picture appeared similar in other parts of the Saanich Peninusla. The atmosphere inside of Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre was hushed, if cavernous.
Vivian Klaiber, poll supervisor said turnout has been steady since doors opened.
“There have been no issues and no line-ups,” she said.
Seventy-seven-year old Neil Howard was among those who voted Monday and called his voting experience “terrific” after expecting long line-ups. “There was no one in there,” he said. “I was in and out in a matter of minutes.”
For Howard, voting is an engrained behaviour. “We are one of the countries in the world that gives you the right to vote democratically, ” he said. “There some countries where people can’t do that. We can and I do.”
While a slow morning does not say anything about the final turnout figures, Howard is concerned about the apparent lack of interest. “It’s disappointing,” he said. “I suppose the weather is a large factor. I expected crowds here.”
So what are the expectations of voters about the outcome?
“I really don’t have any expectations,” said Butler. “I think we are voting for the lesser of all evils at this point,” she said. “I am really hoping that the candidate I voted for gets it.”
Howard added, “it looks like it is going to be a minority government … But who knows. One has no idea about these things. I was surprised when our friends down south voted Mr. Trump in. I realize we won’t be facing that possibility, but who knows. It’s disappointing that there is such a low turn out so far based on what I have seen here.”
Back at Deep Cove Elementary, any number of curious little faces waiting for school to start poked their heads inside the gym to see what all the fuss was about.
Tonken welcomes this. “The kids see it, it’s part of the community,” he said.
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