New Proposed Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2016
Engaging youth in the democratic process
To better engage young people in the electoral process, the proposed Election Statute Law Amendment Act includes amendments that would, if passed, permit 16- and 17-year-olds to be added to a provisional voter register that would be designed and administered by the Chief Electoral Officer. Inclusion on the register would be completely optional, and young people would have the option to withdraw from the register at any time. The minimum age to vote would remain 18.
Ontario would empower Elections Ontario to expand its engagement with 16- and 17-year-olds, to help get them ready to vote when they reach the legal voting age of 18.
This change would also help improve the accuracy of the province's voter lists by allowing Elections Ontario to transfer new voters' information on the provisional register (e.g., name, address) to the Permanent Register of Electors of Ontario when those on the register reach their 18th birthday.
Making voting easier and more convenient
If passed, the bill would move the scheduled provincial election date from the first Thursday in October to the first Thursday in June.
Under the new rules, the next scheduled provincial election would take place on June 7, 2018.
The bill would also help voters get to the polls by standardizing advance voting location hours.
To further enhance voter engagement and awareness, the bill would give the Chief Electoral Officer the discretion to communicate with the public through more modern and efficient channels by removing requirements for the Chief Electoral Officer to communicate through print media (e.g., newspaper ads).
Modernizing the voting process
The proposed legislation would allow votes to be counted electronically, instead of by hand. Using electronic vote tabulators will help ensure that results are more accurate and can be delivered more quickly. This technology has already been successfully piloted in the 2016 Whitby-Oshawa byelection.
The bill would also encourage collaboration with other jurisdictions by allowing the Chief Electoral Officer to provide technology and assistance to other electoral authorities.
Adapting to the needs of condo and apartment building residents
Allowing candidates to canvass and interact with constituents is an important part of the democratic process. Political candidates and their representatives already have the legal right to access shared residences, such as condos and apartment buildings, which are increasingly common in urban areas across the province. The proposed legislation would clarify this right by introducing rules for canvassers to follow when accessing such residences.
To give people who live in shared residences every opportunity to interact with political candidates, this legislation would also give the Chief Electoral Officer the authority to issue fines to multiple residence building owners and condominium corporations if canvassers are denied access to these buildings.
Enhancing voter representation in the far North
For communities in Ontario's geographically large, remote northern ridings, effective representation by any one Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) can be a challenge. To help improve representation of people living in Ontario's northernmost communities, including Indigenous people, the government is proposing to establish a Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission to review Ontario's two northernmost ridings (Kenora-Rainy River and Timmins-James Bay) and make recommendations about the creation of either one or two new ridings in those areas.
The commission, which would be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, would include a current or former judge of an Ontario court who would act as chair, the Chief Electoral Officer, a member of an Ontario university faculty and two community representatives who identify as Indigenous persons.
Any recommended changes to the Kenora-Rainy River and Timmins-James Bay electoral districts would be implemented in time for the 2018 provincial election.
Updating rules for parties and candidates
The proposed legislation sets out measures to streamline administrative processes. For example, it would combine the current steps for political candidates to submit their application for registration, nomination paper, and party endorsement to Elections Ontario into a single, streamlined process.
This legislation would also permit candidates to request that the last name they normally use be printed on ballots, if this differs from their legal name.