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Let the voting begin, Perth-Wellington returning officer says

Perth-Wellington Returning Officer Tim Doherty is encouraging residents across the riding to take advantage of early voting opportunities so they can avoid the long lines and chaos on Ontario's 2022 election day June 2.

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With the 2022 Ontario general election campaign officially starting on Wednesday, Perth-Wellington returning officer Tim Doherty wants to help local voters avoid long lines on the June 2 election day.

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Speaking with the Beacon Herald, Doherty said staff at the Perth-Wellington returning office, which houses everyone responsible for administering the election in this riding, is now open and ready for voters.

“The returning office is here in Stratford at the University of Waterloo campus on the second and third floors, with a satellite office at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Listowel,” Doherty said. “The returning office is where all the key staff work in preparation for the election, but an important piece of the returning office is, at any time after the (election is called), which was (Wednesday), people can come in during office hours and vote.

“Not many people are aware of that feature.”

Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, the returning office provides voters who would like to avoid the chaos of election day with a chance to vote until 6 p.m. the day before election day.

“One of our (goals) in the election is to make voting easy,” Doherty said, “so there are a number of things we’re trying to publicize. Some are new and some are just bringing people’s attention to it. There are a number of ways to vote other than just lining up on election day.”

For this election, Elections Ontario has increased the number of, and operating hours for, advanced polls in the province. Advance polls are available across the Perth-Wellington riding from May 19 to May 28, with specific dates, times and locations to be published on the province’s voter information cards mailed out to voters ahead of every election, and on the Elections Ontario website – www.elections.on.ca – as of May 9.

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“We have two polls that are open for 10 days – one in Stratford and one in Mount Forest – and other polls are open on a variety of days (during that period),” Doherty said. “That is a great increase from previous advance polls, offering more availability to vote.

“What we learned from the federal election was there was a big demand from people to vote in advance polls and to avoid that lineup on (election day). Following that, Elections Ontario decided to increase the amount of dates available for advance-poll voting.”

Unlike voting on election day, when voters are required to vote at the specific polling station listed on their voter information cards, residents can vote at any advance poll in the riding.

Voters in Ontario also have the opportunity to vote by mail ahead of the election.

“Any voter can go to the Elections Ontario website, which, by the way, has a tremendous amount of information on it, and select ‘vote by mail’,” Doherty said. “It’s a very simple process. They fill out an application and then the (vote-by-mail) kit is sent to whatever address they select. Then, based on the information they’ve provided, they will have a self-addressed, pre-paid envelope they put it in the mailbox and it will be sent to the returning office where they’re registered to vote.”

Once residents apply to vote by mail, they will no longer be eligible to vote in person at advance or election-day polls.

“Once again, it’s trying to make voting easier for people with accessibility needs or issues with transportation and not wanting to be in crowds,” Doherty said. “We’re really encouraging people to take advantage of (early voting opportunities).”

gsimmons@postmedia.com

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