Eight GTA ridings will have half as many polling sites for this election, COVID-19 may be to blame

Voters in the Greater Toronto Area may have further to go in order to cast their ballots during the upcoming federal election thanks to a reduction in polling stations that is being largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elections Canada has secured more than 14,000 polling sites for Sept. 20, which is an approximately seven per cent reduction from 2019.

But in the GTA the effect could be even more pronounced with many ridings losing dozens of polling sites.

In Toronto Centre, which has nearly 104,000 residents, there will be only 22 polling sites, including seven advance polls that opened today. That is compared to 102 in 2019.

Another downtown riding, Spadina Fort-York, is also among the most heavily impacted. It will see its number of polling stations decrease from 65 to 24, a roughly 63 per cent drop.

A spokesperson for Elections Canada tells CP24 that the reason for the loss of polling stations is partly due to an effort to find larger locations to allow for physical distancing.

The spokesperson also noted that “there are fewer facilities available for polling places in the current pandemic context.”

The Toronto Catholic District School Board, for example, voted last month not to allow its buildings to be used as polling stations amid concerns about large crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic. That decision alone left Elections Canada with 94 fewer sites to use in Toronto.

“Voters may have to travel a little longer than in the past to cast their ballot and may be asked to wait outside to respect physical distancing measures,” the spokesperson said.

Eight GTA ridings have seen polling stations reduced by more than 50 per cent

Elections Canada says that its returning officers aimed to recruit approximately the same number of poll workers for the fall election as they did in 2019, even with the reduction in polling stations.

They say that the number of advance polls is also comparable with an increase in individual desks at many polling sites.

However, for voters looking to cast their ballot it is likely that they will have further to go and this is particularly true in the GTA.

In fact there are a total of eight GTA ridings that have had their total number of polling sites, including advance voting locations, reduced by more than half. Another nine GTA ridings have more than 40 per cent fewer polling sites than they did in 2019.

Meanwhile, there are four GTA ridings that will see an increase in their number of polling sites compared to 2019 - Mississauga-Streetsville (17.8 per cent), Markham-Unionville (7.2 per cent), Mississauga Centre (4.88 per cent) and Etobicoke Lakeshore (1.32 per cent)

Here is a list of the GTA ridings that are among the most impacted:

  • Toronto Centre (22 versus 102 in 2019, a 78.4 per cent drop)
  • Spadina-Fort York (24 versus 65 in 2019, a 64 per cent drop)
  • University-Rosedale (31 versus 82 in 2019, a 63 per cent drop)
  • Aurora - Oak Ridges - Richmond Hill (17 versus 44 in 2019, a 62.2 per cent drop)
  • King – Vaughan (21 versus 54 in 2019, a 61.4 per cent drop)
  • Etobicoke North (19 versus 43 in 2019, a 61.1 per cent drop)
  • Vaughan-Woodbrige (16 versus 35 in 2019, a 54.3 per cent drop)
  • Scarborouth Southwest (33 versus 71 in 2019, a 53.5 per cent drop)