Riding offices ho-ho-hold the vote
Christmas Day just another workday for elections-office staff as voters cast special ballots across the country
Jason Markusoff and Alex Hutchinson, The Edmonton Journal; Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, December 26, 2005
Of all the traditional things there are to do on Christmas, voting is not one of them.
Changes in Canada's electoral law since the last winter campaign in 1979-80 stipulate that offices in all 308 ridings must be open every day from the time the writ is dropped until six days before the election, a spokesman for Elections Canada said.
And with no traffic, no lineups and mild weather in many areas of the country, at least some voters were taking advantage of the opportunity.
The Edmonton Centre returning office at Westmount Shopping Centre had a slow but steady stream of voters.
Karen Cuthbert and Glyn Williams are heading on a Thailand vacation early Tuesday, and needed to vote in advance. They were surprised at a 15-minute wait on Christmas Day.
"We could have gone yesterday (on Christmas Eve), but it would have been really busy at the mall," Cuthbert said. "This was a perfect time to go when it was quiet."
A Grant MacEwan College student grinned widely as he came out from behind the cardboard voting booth. "I couldn't think of anything more perverse to do on Christmas Day than go vote," he said, unwilling to offer his name, let alone his voting preference.
Jean Perley, who was filling out her ballot at the Ottawa-Vanier returning office, said: "I thought I was hearing things on the radio when they said I could come and vote today."
After phoning Elections Canada to make sure she had heard correctly, Perley and her husband, Alan, decided to exercise their franchise, since they will be in Florida on election day.
Many of the people taking advantage of the special ballot option are snowbirds like the Perleys, said Daniel Laurin, the supervisor of special ballots in Ottawa-Vanier.
"There are a lot of senior citizens living in this riding," Laurin said.
"Some of them are already in Florida; others will be heading there after Christmas."
The special ballot differs from the advance polls that will be held on January 13, 14 and 16, since candidates have until January 2 at 2 p.m. to declare their candidacy. As a result, no ballots are printed, and voters instead have to write in the name of their preferred candidate.
While this demands an additional measure of political awareness, voters needn't worry about getting the spelling exactly right.
"The idea is that the intention must be clear," an Elections Canada spokesman said.
"If it's badly written, but the intention is clear, then it will still count."
Josephine Stamp's vote in Edmonton East was a sort of Christmas gift to her new country. Originally from Indonesia, this was her first ballot as a Canadian citizen.
"Now is a day that I've waited for for a very long time," she said. "I'm doing my duty as a citizen."
She also brought coconut shortbread cookies for the returning office staff, a little gift from the riding's Conservative campaign. Stamp's husband, Gordon Stamp, is campaign manager for incumbent candidate Peter Goldring.
"I didn't believe they should be open today, so I thought this would be something nice to do," Josephine said.