First-time voters endure long lines to cast their ballot –

Frank Ghazal waits to vote outside East York Community Recreation Centre in Toronto, September 20, 2021. Ghazal is a first-time voter.

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By Olivia BowdenStaff Reporter

Mon., Sept. 20, 20213 min. read

As a swell of residents headed to polls across Toronto Monday morning, several first-time voters endured waiting in long lineups as they had strong convictions for voting — or they simply were excited to cast a ballot.

Over in the Toronto-Danforth riding, Frank Ghazal, 28, waited patiently to vote at the East York Community Recreation Centre. He joined the back of a line that was steadily moving forward.

Physical distancing and protocols due to COVID-19, along with a shortage of polls in several GTA ridings this federal election due to the pandemic, resulted in some voting delays. Many in major Toronto ridings like Spadina—Fort York, Toronto Centre and Toronto-Danforth amid others faced longer lineups at the polls.

Ghazal said this is the first time he’s voted in a federal election, as he didn’t see the need to participate in past years. He felt the dominance of the Liberal and Conservative party leadership wins over the previous few decades would mean his vote for a different party that aligns with his left-wing views wouldn’t matter.

But this time, he believes the NDP has a chance at gaining more seats and he wanted to ensure he made it out to vote to support the party, he said. The Toronto-Danforth riding has a history of Liberal and NDP wins over the last several decades. It was previously the riding of the late Jack Layton, who was leader of the NDP from 2003 until his death in 2011. The riding has been represented by a federal Liberal MP since 2015.

“I’m going to do my part to help,” Ghazal said. “My only goal is for (the NDP) to gain seats this election, and hopefully become the official opposition to whichever of the parties end up taking it,” he said.

It’s important to him that he votes his conscience, he said. Ghazal works night shifts, so he cut into the time he’d usually be asleep to make it out to vote.

“I have to go to sleep pretty soon, so I hope this doesn’t take too long,” he said, referring to the lineup. “I feel like there should be more stations set up … but this is what we’re dealing with.”

In the same lineup, Alexandra Clifton, 18, was also waiting to vote for the first time. This is the first year she’s been eligible to vote, and her parents encouraged her to head to the closest polling station, she said.

No political party had a specific campaign that really caught her attention though.

“I just saw the opportunity and thought it was probably the right thing to do,” she said, adding that she was nervous to vote for the first time but was looking forward to it.

The ridings that were facing lunchtime holdups to vote were in neighbourhoods that contain a large number of young professionals like Spadina—Fort York, some of whom told the Star they could easily leave their desks to get to the polls.

In other parts of the city, like the northwest and parts of Scarborough that have a higher percentage of essential workers, poll volunteers told the Star they expect to see residents arrive later after work.

Kishan Rana, a longtime resident of Toronto Centre, said this is the first time he’s had to wait so long. He was in line Monday morning to vote at the Jarvis Street Baptist Church, which saw a crowd snaking around Allen Gardens to get to the polls.

“I work remotely so it worked out, but I imagine for other people it must be super hard,” he said, referring to people who have to ask employers for required time off to vote.

Along with the lineups, Elections Canada was also experiencing technical difficulties on election day with the voter information service on its website, which guides residents on where to vote. The agency later tweeted that the issue had been resolved.

This is the first federal election Canadians are taking part in since the pandemic began. For more information on the parties and their platforms, see more of the Star’s coverage here.