Voters frustrated by long lines, wait times at Waterloo Region advance polling stations

If you're looking to vote at an advanced polling station this weekend, you might want to book more time than you think to cast your ballot.

That's because COVID-19 pandemic protocols are causing longer wait times at polling stations, Elections Canada says.

On Friday, the first of four days of advance voting, there were long lines at multiple advance polling locations in Waterloo Region.

"It was a long wait but it was worth the wait," said 18-year-old Angela Nijp, who voted for the first time on Friday morning.

Angela and her mother, Stacey, had to wait nearly two hours at the Breithaupt Community Centre to cast their ballots in the Kitchener Centre riding.

"With all the COVID restrictions, I thought the advance polls would be a great idea," Stacey said. "The lineup snaked all along the outside walls of the gymnasium and the hold up was that, unfortunately, there was one polling station."

The pair weren't the only voters at the station lamenting the long wait times.

"I thought I would use up my lunch hour and I ended up waiting two hours and twenty minutes to vote," said Michael Chatel.

Elections Canada spokesperson Rejean Grenier says delays were expected, adding that’s why advance polls are open for four days.

"They can spread the line, if I may call it like that, until Monday night at nine o'clock," he said.

Grenier said longer than usual wait times are mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with contact tracing and physical distancing being enforced at the polls.

"We've only put one person at each desk, whereas previous elections you had two people," he said.

A shortage of staff coupled with this year's larger advanced polling stations pushing more electors into one place will mean a longer lineup, Grenier said.

At Kitchener's Kingsdale Community Centre, some voters were frustrated they had to wait about 40 minutes to cast a ballot.

"Unorganized, it could've moved quicker, there could've been one more polling station, one more person helping out," said early voter Francine Leal.

"This is a slow time so when everyone is done work, you're going to be waiting a while," said Holly Campbell.