Residents who are isolating will be unable to cast a ballot in Monday’s federal election.
If people have not taken advantage of advanced polling or mail-in voting services to date and are in quarantine, they will not be able to go to the polls, said Leanne Tait, Elections Canada’s returning officer for the Northwest Territories.
“If they have been asked or advised to isolate, they should not be coming to the poll on election day,” Tait said. “If it is not safe for them to leave their house then it is not safe to go to the polls.”
Tait said she doesn’t know how many people are in isolation, but she said her team has put some measures in place to ensure as many people can vote as possible.
“We provided things proactively in advance with longer advanced polling,” she said. “Normally, advanced polling has been over three days in the past, and this year it was four days.”
There was an option to request to a mail-in ballot whereby an elector could go online to order a special ballot kit or pick one up at Canada Post to fill out. However the application deadline for the mail-in option was Sept. 14.
Independent candidate Jane Groenewegen said she’s concerned about what limited access might mean for voters.
“Obviously I’m concerned about people who may not be able to exercise their right to vote in this election and very much hoping that some kind of accommodation could be made for them,” she said.
She wrote chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola on Sept. 16 calling for alternative methods for voting.
“We have drive-by testing, drive-through vaccinations, would it be possible to work with Elections Canada for some form of drive-by voting?” Groenewegen suggested.
But Tait said the Canada Elections Act is strict about how people can vote.
“The Canada Election Act is what guides our ability to provide access to voters and our hands are tied,” she said. “There are requirements in there that don’t allow us the flexibility to do other methods of voting that might be available in say a territorial election or municipal election.”
Dave Monroe, campaign manager for Michael McLeod, said it’s disappointing that some voters won’t be able to vote because of public health restrictions.
“It is deeply unfortunate that individuals who have not yet cast their ballots may be unable to vote on Sept. 20 due to COVID isolation requirements,” he said.
He pointed out that Elections Canada has the responsibility to protect poll workers and voters during an outbreak, and his team has done what it could to promote early voting.
“Our campaign had been encouraging voters to go to advanced polls and use the special ballot options (either requesting to vote by mail or voting at the Elections Canada’s office in the Centre Square Mall), but we recognize those options are no longer available,” he said.