While voters at many polling locations in Kingston cast their ballots within 15-30 minutes, the majority of Queen’s University students living on campus lined up for almost three hours during federal election day on Monday, September 20, 2021.
From around lunch time onward, the MacGillivray-Brown Hall polling station located on 218 Barrie Street had hundreds of students waiting for their turn to vote. The end of the line was at the intersection of Division and Clergy Streets, all along Clergy, turning at Barrie Street, and snaking twice around the fenced yard before reaching the front door of the hall, 600 people deep.
At 11:30 p.m., two hours after the polls closed, an estimated 40 people were still waiting.
McGillivray-Brown Hall served as the only polling station for those living on campus. Queen’s University admitted 5,338 first year students this year, and with more than 90 per cent living in residence, there were approximately 4,800 students needing to vote in one polling station, plus all other residents and students within that area.
One of the challenges at this polling centre was that most students were not registered and did not receive their voter registration card, as it was sent to their home address.
Queen’s University student Mila Pervez had been waiting in line starting at 4:15 p.m., and by 5:35 p.m. still had about an hour’s wait to the front of the line. Her home address is in Ajax, so her voter registration card was sent to her home.
“I think the time is right for an election, I just wish they had more stations and more staff,” Pervez said. She thought of leaving the line-up twice, but since she already waited so long, she “didn’t want it to be a waste”.
“(The election staff should have) let people know that the lineup was long… maybe a sign, people giving updates on how much time we still had to wait. (But) it’s okay, it’s for a good cause,” she said.
Pervez, as well as fellow student Ethan Hurtubise, found out information on where the polling station was through an Instagram post by Queen’s Student Government AMS.
“There was a page and a link where you could vote,” Pervez said.
Sam McChrystal, a first time voter, said the waiting time was longer than expected, and said she will definitely register next time there’s an election. McChrystal’s friend, Olivia (who did not want to disclose her last name), said she didn’t know where her polling station was, but was told by another friend who voted earlier.
Meanwhile, student Alana McPhail does not think an election should have been called and that. “the main issue here is that the students are not registered… which takes time. It’s probably happening at every university.”
McPhail and friends Dilara Sen, Ellyn Edwards and Jessie Bauer didn’t mind the wait, and were united in saying that “this is important,” with regard to voting.
“[Another] friend waited in line for a long time, but then he had to work, so he wasn’t able to vote. It’s a good day for us, at least it’s a nice day, even if it’s taking a while. You gotta vote,” McPhail added.
They received a flyer from an NDP campaign representative handing out maps showing what voters needed to cast their ballots, as well as polling station locations.
NDP candidate Vic Sahai was at the MacGillivray-Brown Hall location around 7 p.m., and noted that “this big lineup makes me feel great. In order for democracy to work, we have to engage every aspect of society, including the young. These people are our future, we need to engage them, not only to get them to vote, but to listen to them.”
He added that it doesn’t matter to him who they’re voting for, his aim was to give out instructions on how and where to vote. “A lot of them didn’t know where to vote,” expressed Sahai, who’d noted his disappointment in the lack of polling stations for the Queen’s area earlier in the day.
Sam Shaw said that she tried to do research on polling locations, but, “couldn’t figure it out”.
“Somebody gave me a flyer on the street. Pretty much everyone from residence is coming here,” Shaw said.
Luke Major, a first time federal voter from Calgary, Alberta said, “I’m going to seven classes a day and doing projects after school, it sucks that it’s up to you to find out information, you really only had the option of coming here.”
For their part, Queen’s University Alma Mater Society (AMS) expressed frustration with the process of this latest election, as well as concern regarding the confusion and possible missed voting opportunities that resulted.
“This election cycle posed significant challenges to all students wishing to vote. Through the initial cancelling of the Vote on Campus Program from Elections Canada, the AMS continuously advocated alongside our colleagues at the Undergraduates of Research-Intensive Universities to develop a plan to ensure students had ways to vote on campus. Through working diligently with Elections Canada as well as University Administration and KFL&A [Public Health], the AMS was dedicated to ensuring close campus voting for our students and was able to secure an on-campus polling station located at MacGillivray-Brown Hall,” Jacob Marinelli, Commissioner of External Affairs for Queen’s AMS said in a statement.
“Leading up to the election, our team worked to release informative, engaging content through our social media channels outlining everything students needed to register and vote on advanced polling days and the official election day. All information received from Elections Canada was immediately released for students to access,” he continued. “The AMS is deeply concerned with the lack of information received and the long wait times that our students faced on election day. We heard anecdotes about lineups lasting several hours, mail-in ballots being received on election day even though they were ordered well before the deadline, and confusion as polling stations changed locations.”
“We will continue these conversations moving forward with Elections Canada to ensure these barriers don’t transpire for the upcoming provincial election in the new year. We want to guarantee our students that the accessibility of information and voting options are increased,” Marinelli concluded.
Kingstonist has reached out to the local Elections Canada office, but no response was received by time of publication. This article will be updated as more information becomes available.