Political battles may get dirty, but the polling stations will be clean.
On Wednesday, Elections Canada released new health and safety measures for the upcoming federal election, which is coinciding with a surge of the highly-transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant.
Elections Canada says the following measures will be in effect:
- Voters will be required to wear masks if masks are required in their province or local jurisdiction. If masks are not required, voters will still be strongly encouraged to wear one.
- There will be sanitizing stations at entrances/exits, as well as physical distancing measures with directional signage throughout the polling place.
- To reduce the number of interactions with voters, there will be only one poll worker per desk behind a plexiglass barrier. Poll workers will be provided with masks and face shields.
- Single-use pencils will be provided. Voters can also bring their own pencil or pen, if they choose.
- Poll workers will be sanitizing workstations, door handles and common surfaces throughout the day as well as safely disposing of used masks and gloves.
- Candidates and their representatives — as well as anyone else who’s authorized to be present — will be required to wear masks and respect physical distancing at polling and ballot counting locations.
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Stéphane Perrault, expressed confidence that the election can be safely executed.
“The polls are a controlled environment where safety measures can be applied rigorously,” he said.
“There have been elections around the world (during the pandemic) and there has not been outbreaks of COVID as a result of in-person voting.”
Also new for this election — eligible Canadians will be able to apply online to vote by mail for the first time.
“Previously, only Canadians living abroad or those applying to vote by mail from outside of their riding were able to apply online — local electors applied directly through their local Elections Canada office,” Elections Canada said in a release.
Learn more about that process here.
Elections Canada says it is working to “identify suitable and accessible polling places that can serve electors during a pandemic by facilitating physical distancing measures.
“As a result, some polling places may differ from those used in the past, or may be slightly further from voters’ homes than those used for previous elections.”
Canadians head to the polls on September 20, with advance polls opening on September 10.