BRITISH COLUMBIA

Advance Poll Runs Out Of Ballots In Merritt, B.C.

10/14/2015 07:37 EDT | Updated 10/14/2016 05:12 EDT
Voters at a number of advance polling stations including one in Merritt, B.C., were turned away without voting as the ballots ran out, Elections Canada says.

About 15 to 20 people who were waiting in line Merritt Civic Centre were told to go home Monday evening because there were no more ballots, said former MLA Harry Lali, who was there at the time as an area co-ordinator for Angelique Wood, the NDP candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

"This is just outrageous," said Lali. "There's not enough staff, there's not enough polling booths ... now you don't have enough ballots."

Lali said some voters in the rural area, including those from Logan Lake where there was no advance polling station, had travelled 40 minutes or more and waited only to be turned away.

"I know some of these people were quite upset, some of these people came from out of town, from aboriginal reserves."

Twice as many ballots not enough

Elections Canada blames the shortages on high voter turnout — which was up 71 per cent from last election. 

Advance polls were given roughly twice the number of ballots that were needed in the 2011 federal election, but some still ran out.

"While Elections Canada did plan for increased interest in the advanced polls, some [electoral districts] experienced substantially more voting activity than was anticipated, and ran short of ballots," according to a statement from Diane Benson of Elections Canada.

While returning officers have the option to print more ballots — or even photocopy the ones they have — that wasn't possible in Merritt when ballots ran out in the last hour, said Benson.

Instead, poll officials asked which voters were not able to vote on Oct. 19, and let them cast a vote by special ballot.

Still, Lali questions why the high voter turnout on the first day wasn't indication enough to supply more ballots to the polling station, and he's concerned how many people in other locations were also turned away.

Voters complain of other shortages

Elections Canada indicated multiple ridings ran out of ballots but didn't say how many or which ones.

On social media, voters from across the country complain about ballots running out in ridings in Quebec, Alberta and Ontario.

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