I’m a dual-Canadian-American citizen who grew up in Nova Scotia, spent her early adult life in Ontario, and recently moved to California. Today I voted in-person for the first time in a US election. I love both my countries of citizenship, but I think both countries could learn from each other. Based on my personal experience, I would say that the Canadian voting experience is superior. Here’s why:
In Ontario and Nova Scotia, I was automatically registered to vote through my government health card. While I was a student, volunteers came to my dorm room to help me update my address from my parent’s house to my dorm address.
In California, I was prompted for fill out and send in a separate form to the San Diego registrar when I applied for my driver’s license, which I did almost a year ago. A month before the election, the registrar sent a letter to my address stating that no one at my address was registered to vote. This gave me a minor panic attack before I could get online and confirm that I was registered. I don’t know how this mistake happened.
There were at least three voters in the polling station in California who thought they were registered but were not.
In Canada, it has been impossible not to meet someone running for office during an election year. Elizabeth May showed up at a work party at my first job. Peter MacKay used to show up at after-school activities. One Liberal candidate in Montreal was waiting outside the door to a grocery store to introduce me to his daughter when I was covered in mud and sweat from mountain biking and carrying a case of beer.
I have not met any candidate running for office in this year’s US election, even those running for city council. My closest encounter was that my husband, who currently lives in Florida, was passed by Kaine’s motorcade.
In every Canadian election I have voted in, my polling place has been in my apartment building or housing complex.
I live in a similarly-sized apartment complex in California, but my polling location is a 15 minute walk away, with no bike parking. It is right off of a freeway exit, however.
In Canada, voting booths have been at sitting height, or locations have had both standing and sitting height booths.
In California, all voting booths in the main voting area were at standing height. I observed that I voter in a wheelchair had to go into one building to check-in, then exit the building and re-enter through another entrance to vote in private.
In Canada, there is only one name on the ballot. Since it is small, it is easy to fold over and shove in the ballot box in your hand.
In California, poll workers were having difficulty shoving the two large pieces of paper without opening the ballot protector. Several voters discarded the shield to speed up the process.
In Canada, in 2015, I voted after work at 5 pm. There was no line, and it took me 3 minutes to vote. It would have taken less time, but one of the observers had chosen that time to go for a bathroom break. In every election, there have been as many poll workers as voters at the polling station when I’ve voted.
In California, I went to the poll ten minutes after it opened and there was a 25 minute line. I would attribute wait to there only being 4 poll workers for a crowd of 50 people.
Neither country’s voting experience is terrible, but there was a lot less friction in voting in Canada. With a few changes, i.e., having a better checked list of registered voters and addresses, putting at least one polling booth at wheelchair height, and hiring more election workers, the American voting experience could be as good as the Canadian experience.