As voters continue to hear from MP hopefuls in the lead-up to the Oct. 21 federal election, Elections Canada officials are working behind the scenes to ensure a smooth logistical feat come voting day.
Elections Canada returning officer Geoff Collier said more than 300,000 people are hired across the country, including 900 in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding. The employees oversee 260 voting opportunities in the local riding, from polling stations to special voting at places like seniors homes, Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre and Royal Inland Hospital.
Polling stations are available on all First Nations reserves in the riding, Collier said, and small communities like Avola (57 eligible voters) and Canoe Creek (40 eligible voters) are provided in-person opportunities to cast ballots.
“Our job is not to increase voter or to tell people to vote,” Collier said. “Our job is to make sure that every single person who wants to vote can easily access that right.”
Though 900 people might sound like a lot of employees for one day (it’s actually longer, when including training and advance voting), consider a larger location, such as Kamloops United Church downtown. It has 10 polls.
“Each of those polling stations will have two people at it, plus you have to have information officers, registration officers, people who help people come in, people who help people find their registration and people who supervise the entire operation,” Colliers said.
Collier has been in his 10-year appointed role for two years. It’s the first time he has run the “entire show” and he said his experience in project and event management has prepared him for the job, one at the heart of Canadian democracy.
The Elections Canada office opened in Sahali Mall one hour after the writ dropped on Sept. 11, anticipating the official start to the election as much as the rest of the country. The fixed election date makes it easier to prepare, however.
Upon being hired and trained — so far in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding, 700 of the 900 needed staff have been employed — the Elections Canada team heads into the Sahali Mall office to pick up their ballot boxes and ballots for their respective locations.
On Election Day, supervisors will show up at their stations at 5 a.m., with poll workers following no later than 6 a.m. Voters will start filing in an hour later, at 7 a.m. In Kamloops, polls will close at 7 p.m., at which time staff will begin the process of counting the votes, which remain anonymous. Results will be called in by phone to the office, where they will be provided to media and reported by computer to Elections Canada’s central office.
“We’ll be at the office for probably until about 1 a.m., waiting for all of the boxes to come in,” Collier said, noting after the results are called in, the boxes are brought in by supervisors.
It’s a busy day, but Collier said it’s fun. He said the most rewarding part is getting rid of barriers in allowing Canadians to elect their federal government.
“The goal for us is to make it accessible to everybody,” he said.
To apply for a job with Elections Canada in the upcoming federal election, visit the local riding office in Sahali Mall, call 1-866-545-0619 or go online to elections.ca.