Ontario to Introduce Bill to Modernize Elections
Measures Include New Vote-Counting Technology and Enhanced Youth Engagement
Ontario intends to make it easier to vote and engage more people in the democratic process, including youth.
Today Ontario will introduce the Election Statute Law Amendment Act that would, if passed, implement a number of recommendations made by Ontario's Chief Electoral Officer to promote voter participation and improve the voting experience, modernize the election process, and provide clearer rules to parties and candidates before and during elections.
Key measures include:
- Engaging more young people earlier in the democratic process by allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote with Elections Ontario on a new provisional register, with the minimum age to vote remaining 18
- Making it easier for voters to get to polling stations by moving the scheduled election date from fall to spring to take advantage of the longer daylight hours and warmer weather
- Allowing for the use of electronic vote tabulators at voting stations so that votes can be counted more quickly and accurately.
To help improve representation of people living in Ontario's northernmost communities, including Indigenous people, the bill would also establish the Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission to advise on the creation of up to two additional ridings in the province's far North.
Together with the Electoral Boundaries Act, 2015 and the proposed Election Finances Statute Law Amendment Act, 2016, this bill builds on the government's plan to transform provincial elections in Ontario.
- Fewer than 4.9 million people voted in the last provincial election, which is about 51 per cent of eligible voters. Voter turnout among young people aged 18 to 24 was even lower at 34 per cent.
- The Chief Electoral Officer regularly provides the government with recommendations and reports on how to enhance election processes in Ontario. This bill would implement proposals that were made in his 2013-14 and 2014-15 annual reports, his report on the 2014 general election, and his report on the 2016 Whitby–Oshawa by-election.
- There are currently 11 provincial electoral districts in Northern Ontario. The proposed Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission could recommend increasing this number to either 12 or 13 by splitting Ontario’s two northernmost ridings, Kenora-Rainy River and Timmins-James Bay.
“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. These proposed changes would help engage our young people in the democratic process, promote greater voter turnout by making it more convenient to cast a ballot, and look at ways to improve representation of people living in the far North. These changes, which would implement several recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer, are part of our commitment to a modern, fair and effective Ontario electoral system.”
“Your vote matters. We want to make voting easier and ensure that everyone in Ontario has their voice heard, beginning with our young people. When you vote, you’re helping to shape important government decisions about where schools and hospitals are built, and how we should create jobs. In the last provincial election only 34 per cent of young people voted – we need to do better. In the next general election I want to see more young people cast a ballot, which is why I’m very excited that this legislation would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote.”