GTA school boards express concern about on-site voting for federal election

A voting sign is seen at a Toronto polling station on Oct. 21, 2019. (CTV News Toronto / Ron Dhaliwal)

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing where and how people across the Greater Toronto Area will vote for a new federal government on Sept. 20.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), where around 100 locations were being considered, made the decision not to allow polling stations at its schools.

“When we have thousand of people coming in and out of the building. Some are vaccinated. Some are not. Who knows,” said TCDSB Chair Joseph Martino, who voted not to host polling stations.

Martino added that he could support some voting at some schools, however most of the locations on the list were elementary schools.

“Can we clean the space in time, do we have kids coming through some of those areas? I worry about that. My biggest thing is to make sure they are safe, staff are safe and I do not think that is possible.”

Ward 2 Trustee Markus de Demenico told CTV News Toronto he supported allowing voters after it was vetted through Toronto Public Health.

“That under very stringent guidelines we would allow certain schools to be polling stations. In other words, schools that had a completely separate entrance. No access from the public to the student body or employees and have thorough sanitation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Toronto District School Board said it’s working with Elections Canada to use some schools, and expects to know more in the coming days.

The Durham District School Board said Elections Canada is moving forward with alternate locations, while the Durham Catholic District School Board said Elections Canada advised it doesn’t plan to use their schools this time around.

At Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, a PA day was moved at almost all of its elementary schools to accommodate polling stations.

A decision at Peel District School Board whether to allow voting is pending.

Elections Canada said while school polling station locations may be influx it says polling locations have been secured.

VOTING BY MAIL

More people are voting by mail in this election.

Elections Canada said that about 50,000 people cast a ballot through the post in 2019. This time around 345,000 kits have been issued so far — up by almost 50,000 since Monday.

To vote by mail, people need to apply online by Sept. 14 at 6 P.M., write the name of the candidate on a ballot and send it so it’s received by Sept. 20.

Elections Canada is asking people to check the Elections Canada website and their voter information card to see where they should vote.

Anyone who requests a mail in ballot can also bring the ballot to their own local polling station and drop it off if they are concerned it won’t make it in time through the mail.