As Canadians get ready to head to the polls in Monday’s election, Elections Canada employees are gearing up for a long day.
Thousands of employees will wake up at the crack of dawn to set up polling stations across the nation. In Saskatchewan, polling stations open at 7:30 a.m. and stay open for 12 hours.
“Our staff will go in at 6:30 a.m. and it will be a big push to get everything set up and ready in that hour,” returning officer for Saskatoon-Grasswoods Rhea Wynne Moat said. “We’ve told most of our staff that they can anticipate to be there anywhere from 14 to 15 hours.”
Employees set up tables and chairs, hang up signs, set up screens and ballot boxes, check ballots and initial the back of ballots ahead of voting time. Once the 12 hours of voting time are up, employees must count the ballots.
In Saskatchewan’s urban ridings there are nearly 1,100 voting booths and hundreds of polling stations. Each station could have upwards of 19 employees including poll clerks, information and registration officers, deputy returning officers and poll supervisors.
“I have, I want to say, 470 staff in place for (more than) 168 polls,” Moat said. “Multiply that by 338 electoral districts across Canada, it’s an amazing number of staff to put in place for one day and train.”
General staff and poll clerks receive three hours of training ahead of election day while supervisors receive nine hours, including sitting in on other training courses so they understand all aspects of the job. Moat said they are also encouraged to read their manuals at home.
Moat said when the time comes to round up employees to man the polling stations, they first go through the list of people who worked the previous election. She said they see a lot of returning people.
“We tell people that part of it is their responsibility as a Canadian citizen to help out with the democratic process and that belief in the right to vote kind of offsets the pay for the day I guess,” Moat said.
Number of polling booths in Saskatchewan urban ridings:
Saskatoon West – 150
Saskatoon Grasswood – 208
Saskatoon University – 194
Regina Lewvan – 162
Regina-Wascana – 200
Regina- Qu’Appelle – 169