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Early voter turnout seeing high numbers

Last Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:59 pm MDT

EDMONTON (CityNews) – Seanna Lawrence has always voted on election day. But being a diabetic, she’s worried about more severe outcomes if she contracted COVID-19. So, she’s making her mark early.

“Solely because of COVID-19. Just felt like the safest way in person, to reduce being around as many people as possible and still getting out to vote,” she explained.

And Lawrence isn’t alone. Elections Canada reporting 1.3 million Canadians cast a ballot on the first day of advance polling on Friday. That’s 100,000 more votes than in 2019. And early Saturday estimates are also higher.

“There are fewer polling stations, people don’t want to be lined up in a COVID situation,” said Lori Williams, a political scientist professor at Mount Royal University.

Williams says the pandemic is a key factor in strong early turnout, but a competitive race has also been drawing out voters.

“It has been very close. It has been difficult to know which way it will go, even where the momentum is because that’s flipping back and forth,” said Williams.

Given that polling has the front-running Liberals and Conservatives neck and neck, the outcome will likely be determined by voters who typically lean towards other options.

“Whether some of the NDP voters think Erin O’Toole has a chance to form a government and decide to go to the Liberals because the Liberals are closer to their cherished goals than the Conservatives,” she added.

While advance polling closes Monday, Canadians can still apply to vote by mail the deadline is Tuesday, Sept. 14, at 6 p.m.

“It was so easy, I don’t see why I wouldn’t do it in the future,” explained Lawrence.

Elections Canada says they have seen isolated incidents at the polls, but COVID protocols are going well.

As for Lawrence, she says once the pandemic dust has settled, she is likely to cast her ballot in advance the next time Canadians go to the polls.

“Felt safe, people are respecting the space requirements, hand sanitizer, one-use pencils, they’re running a really great operation.”