Modernizing Ontario's Election Legislation
The Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2009 would, if passed, amend both the Election Act and the Election Finances Act and align Ontario with best practices in other provinces and federal rules. The changes would be in place for the 2011 Ontario election.
The main features of the bill are:
- improving the voting process
- increasing access for persons with disabilities
- providing the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) with the flexibility to improve Ontario elections.
The amendments would enhance service delivery and lead to improvements in the way provincial elections are conducted. Overall, the voting process would be more efficient and convenient for Ontarians while providing them with additional opportunities to vote.
The amendments would also increase accessibility and convenience for persons with disabilities and other voters, including seniors, "snowbirds", postsecondary students and military personnel. They would allow voters with disabilities and remote voters to vote independently while maintaining ballot secrecy.
Improving the Voting Process
- Voters would be able to vote by special ballot, which includes voting by mail and taking a ballot to the returning office in person. Since more voting opportunities would be provided with special ballots, proxy voting would be eliminated.
- Postsecondary students would be allowed to choose whether they want to vote in the electoral district where they reside temporarily while they attend an educational institution or where they reside permanently (e.g., with their family).
Increasing Access for Persons with Disabilities
- The CEO would be permitted to use new technologies (e.g., voting machines) that would assist persons with disabilities to cast their ballot privately and independently at returning office advance polls.
- Along with the adoption of special ballots, this initiative would significantly enhance election accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Providing Flexibility to Ontario's Chief Electoral Officer
- The CEO would be given the flexibility to design a voting process that enhances service delivery, ensuring that elections keep pace with and are responsive to the needs of Ontarians.
- The CEO would be given more flexibility to determine the hours and dates for advance polls.
- Appointments of returning officers and poll workers would be depoliticized. The CEO would no longer be required to appoint poll workers from lists provided by candidates.
- The CEO's role with respect to returning officers would be expanded. The CEO would be responsible for recruiting returning officers and returning officer appointments (made by Lieutenant Governor in Council) would be made on the advice of the CEO.
The Work of the Select Committee on Elections
The Bill introduced today builds on the recommendations of the Legislature's Select Committee on Elections.
In June 2008, the government moved in the House that a Select Committee on Elections be appointed to consider the effectiveness of Ontario's existing electoral legislation. MPP Greg Sorbara chaired the four-member committee that also included MPP Howard Hampton, MPP Norm Sterling and MPP David Zimmer.
The committee's final report was delivered to the House in June 2009. It presented the government with a timely and important opportunity to modernize and improve legislation concerning the preparation, administration and delivery of elections in Ontario.