Seniors struggle to find information on voting during pandemic election
Published Wednesday, October 21, 2020 6:21PM PDT Last Updated Wednesday, October 21, 2020 6:47PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- Ernie Humphries lives in assisted-living facility and expected the provincial election would come to him.
“Last time we voted, we voted in our own home,” he told CTV News. This year, “they said no.”
Humphries suffers from cancer and emphysema, so going to a polling station poses a health risk during the current pandemic.
“I wanted to vote like everybody else, but I couldn’t,” he said.
So, he called Jenny Konkin, the president and co-founder of Whole Way House Society, which provides support services and meal delivery to over 450 low income seniors across Vancouver.
“(He) said, ‘I guess I don’t get to vote this year,’” Konkin said. “It’s very contradictory to ask them to come to a polling station when they’ve been told to self-isolate.”
So she reached out to Elections BC to find out what seniors should be doing in this situation.
“I don’t think Erinie’s situation is unique at all,” said Konkin.
She explained that most low-income seniors don’t have access to online services, and some who live independently may not have advocates, or anyone looking out for them. That means they don’t necessarily know what their options are for voting.
This provincial election has seen record numbers of mail-in ballots requested, but the deadline for requesting one has since passed. Telephone voting is available in certain circumstances for British Columbians who are unable to vote in-person or by mail, but few seniors know that, Konkin said.
“We work in the seniors support sector and we didn’t know they could phone in,” she said. “That’s a really hard pill to swallow, to think such a huge part of our province won’t be voting this term.”
In a statement to CTV News, Elections BC acknowledged “challenges in some cases because of the unscheduled election call and pandemic.” Seniors homes and hospitals have been particularly challenging, said Elections BC communications director Andrew Watson in an email, adding that the agency has been “working with health officials and facility administrators to establish voting opportunities.”
Humphries said he was able to vote by phone earlier this week, but he said he’s frustrated with the length of the campaign, which he feels was too short.
“The government should have waited a long time for this, because they could set up the polls later and give more time for seniors,” he said.
Konkin said most seniors get all their information from the news and don’t do online research.
“Having such a short election time with only one televised debate, that’s a very small amount of information to make a large decision,” Konkin said.
Her organization and others are calling on government to form a ministry for seniors.
“There’s no strong voice for seniors,” she told CTV News. “If there was a seniors ministry, there would have been someone to advocate for them to ensure that they were voting and that they knew how to vote.”
More information on telephone voting can be found on the Elections BC website.