There will be fewer polling sites in Waterloo Region this election. Here's why

Voters enter the polling station at St. Luigi Catholic School during election day in Toronto on Monday, October 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Voters in Waterloo Region may have to travel further to cast their ballots than in the past, as the number of polling sites has been reduced this year.

Elections Canada says the pandemic is partly to blame. In the past, schools were convenient polling sites but due to COVID-19 protocols, most schools in Ontario are no longer opening their doors to be used as voting locations.

Some local ridings seeing a decreasing in the number of polling sites include:

  • Cambridge, down to 44 from 76 in the last federal election
  • Kitchener Centre, down to 39 from 50 in 2019
  • Kitchener Conestoga, down to 32 sites compared to 41 in the last election
  • Waterloo, dropping from 56 last election to 42 this year
  • Guelph, with 43 this year compared to 61 in the last election

The changes mean the average voter may need to travel farther than in the past to vote.

According to Elections Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Health gave strict rules to schools that might want to operate as polling sites.

In other instances, some school boards outright told election officials they would not be allowing the general public to enter their schools.

With most schools off the table, Elections Canada was forced to search for new options.

"Sometimes we found bigger places which means that you will have less sites but you may have more polls per site, so the number of polls remain fairly similar but the number of sites definitely went down," said Rejean Grenier with Elections Canada.

A political science professor at the University of Waterloo says he's worried the inconvenience may hurt voter turnout.

"They may not feel up to it, it may be a bad day in terms of weather, they may not be happy physically so they don't go," said Peter Woolstencroft. "I suspect the turn out is going to drop."