Ontario Election 2011

Don't Vote on October 6

Just in time for the 2011 Provincial Election, Ontario has finally taken the leap into the 21st century and made some very progressive changes to the way we vote.

By Michael Borrelli
Published September 16, 2011

On October 6, don't vote. Even though polls across Ontario are open from 9am to 9pm, I suggest your time is better spent reading a book, watching TV, or going out for drinks with friends. Why bother waiting until that first Thursday in October to cast a ballot?

Just in time for the 2011 Provincial Election, Ontario has finally taken the leap into the 21st century and made some very progressive changes to the way we vote. Elections Ontario, the non-partisan Agency of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that runs elections here, has potentially re-enfranchised millions of citizens by reducing many of the barriers that keep nearly half of eligible voters from exercising their democratic right.

Not enough time in your busy day? Out of town that week? Maybe you're a student living away from home for the first time?

No problem. This year there are more ways to vote than ever before, and most radical of all: voters can cast their ballot essentially any time between now and E-day through the use of Special Ballots and Advance Polls.

Special ballots let you vote anytime by mail (or in person), and the application form is quick and painless to fill out.

Meanwhile, Advance Poll locations are already published, and you can start taking advantage of them starting next Wednesday, September 21 (hours of operation should be posted on that Notice of Registration Card you got in the mail).

No card? You can still register any time up until election day, or at the polls. Just bring ID with your name and residential address.

Also a welcome departure from the past: students can now vote on campus and need only show valid ID to register in their school's electoral district, ending the ridiculous practice of forcing post-secondary students to vote back in their hometowns, or trek far off campus to polls in unfamiliar, or inconvenient locations.

Most polls are to be wheelchair accessible, and all polls will offer other accessibility tools like magnifiers, material in braille, audio headphones, or "sip-and-puff" devices, giving almost everyone the opportunity to vote.

Sign-language interpreters can also be booked in advance, and some hospitals will also have polls. Those with restricted mobility can even arrange a home visit or can change their polling location to a more convenient one.

Hopefully all of these changes will result in a better turnout than in 2007, when less than 53% of eligible voters bothered to participate in Ontario's creaky, aging democracy. Results from the recent Federal Election in May showed a healthy increase in the number of voters using advance polls, and they may have contributed to the small uptick in voter turnout.

So, like I said, don't bother voting on October 6. Do it now.

Unless you're very unsure of whom to support, or worry that something game-changing is going to occur in the hours leading up to E-day, you might as well make this essential act of civic participation as convenient as possible. That way you won't be left kicking yourself on the 7th when you discover that the candidate you liked most lost by a single vote.

Besides, I know that in your deepest subconscious you can still hear your mom scolding you with the old proverb: "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."

Michael Borrelli is a social researcher living with his family in Hamilton's North End. He tweets @BaysideBadger.

19 Comments

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2011 at 12:08:39

THanks for the update, Michael. Good to know. Mabye they should hold mini-concerts at all polling stations on certain nights or art exhibits or anything to attract people down to those polls. :)

Sign in. Vote. Free ticket to show.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2011-09-16 12:09:26

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 16, 2011 at 12:26:26

Hey, Lawrence, that'd get out my vote.

I'm a huge supporter of incented voting, as I am with incented surveys/studies/censuses/etc that encourages civic virtue. Almost anything would be a step up--I wonder what turnouts would be if you got a $20 tax credit for voting? Sure, it's buying people's votes with their own money, but functionally it's more like a $20 penalty for those who don't bother!

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2011 at 13:15:46 in reply to Comment 69745

:) There has to be better ways and these types of forums are great opportunities to get the ideas flowing. What's stopping us from doing it? Likely the voting rooms have to be as quiet as possible but we don't need to have Pearl Jam in the next room. :)

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2011 at 12:41:04 in reply to Comment 69745

I wonder what turnouts would be if you got a $20 tax credit for voting?

How about a further $10 if you could pass muster as to having cast your vote with a degree of acumen beyond name recognition? : )

(Are you familiar with the system of graduated voting that Nevil Shute came up with for 'In The Wet'?))

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-09-16 12:41:19

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 16, 2011 at 13:09:18

Are you familiar with the system of graduated voting that Nevil Shute came up with for 'In The Wet'?

No. Tell me more.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2011 at 13:42:36 in reply to Comment 69754

Yes. More.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2011 at 16:16:39 in reply to Comment 69758

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By thehighwayman (registered) | Posted September 16, 2011 at 14:09:54

Maybe if we had some decent candidates to vote for, more people might be interested in voting! I personally lean a little to the right of centre -- but nowhere near as far right as the Progressive (?) Conservative party. The Liberals provincially have not learned from the federal drubbing and are as arrogant as ever - believing in their divine right to govern. The NDP, while having a pretty good leader, are in the same boat as when they got elected back in 1990 -- no bench strength! Why bother reforming the voting process when you still have the same bunch of self-serving politicos to choose from!

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By who are you (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2011 at 15:19:44

Well Highwayman, there are a lot of people out there who feel that same way, especially those who are poor.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2011 at 15:24:20

I have fantasies about a polling card that has a spot for "no viable candidate" if that null vote wins, no one gets in and a by-election is held with all new candidates.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 16, 2011 at 15:50:18 in reply to Comment 69762

That's actually an amazing idea.

I've wanted a null option on ballots for years now--it's not enough to not vote or even spoil your ballot.

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted September 17, 2011 at 23:57:48 in reply to Comment 69766

I'm pretty sure you're able to 'decline the vote', instead of ruining the ballot. Declining the vote basically registers as an un-satisfied citizen, and is counted seperately, while spoiling a ballot could mean any number of things.

Didn't I read that here somewhere?

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By marvincaplan (registered) | Posted September 16, 2011 at 17:54:46

Do citizens not vote because it is difficult to get to a poll, or because they don't believe their vote will count? Proportional representation or some other method of electoral reform to replace or augment the first past the post current "democratic" system needs to be implemented.

60% of the Canadian electorate voted for candidates other than Conservatives. How do we then hear that Harper claims an overwhelming mandate?

We, in Canada, are blessed with a Parliamentary system. Our legislative assemblies are supposed to represent the people, not just the party in power. But, the Americanisation of Canadian politics has undermined our system.

Reform of our system so that every vote counts will make a difference. Yes, more days and places to vote will help. Electoral reform will help more.

Comment edited by marvincaplan on 2011-09-16 17:57:02

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 17, 2011 at 11:05:53

Once again we get to compress 4 years of opinions about government into one mark on a small piece of paper. Forgive me if I'm not thrilled.

Marvin's right - the system, as it stands, just isn't sufficient. I've talked to a lot of people who don't vote, and inconvenience just isn't high on the list. What is high is questions of effectiveness. Responses like "they're all the same" or "I don't trust them to keep their promises" may be cynical - but they also make valid points. If either are true, our ability to choose vanishes, and voting becomes nothing but symbolism and ritual.

Is it so easy to believe that the system, as it stands, is perfect that we're willing to write off the opinions of half the population for disagreeing with it?

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 17, 2011 at 11:23:49 in reply to Comment 69792

Is it so easy to believe that the system, as it stands, is perfect that we're willing to write off the opinions of half the population for disagreeing with it?

Although I'm willing to confess that my focus isn't on either provincial or federal politics (the 'party' aspect changes everything for me...and the subsequent rationalizations and counter-arguments I always hear never do anything to convince me to moderate my distaste), the truth is that one of the most powerful ways to change how people feel about their vote counting, or mitigating their cynicism regarding 'the system' is to make government more accessible to them...and to change their relationship with their representative.

I'm not so sure that there are many instances where a person's detachment from something allows for anything more positive than indifference. The public has their disillusion, politicians have their often-barely-veiled patronizing ways...and the result is what's in front of us.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 18, 2011 at 21:02:38

For the data visualization fans...

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/provincialelection/article/1055598--how-the-liberals-lost-toronto

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 19, 2011 at 10:14:21

The technology exists to allow us to vote on individual policy decisions electronically. This is the direction we need to head. Gone are the days when implementing a referendum had to cost as much as a full on vote. We perform secure transactions online every day to the tune of thousands of dollars through internet banking without blinking an eye, there is no reason we can't have a canadian elections website with secure logins that allow the people to vote on individual decisions.

Voting for a "leader" who represents "most" of what you believe only made sense when polling on policy points was impossible - which it isn't anymore...

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted September 19, 2011 at 17:59:30 in reply to Comment 69844

... there is no reason we can't have a canadian elections website with secure logins that allow the people to vote on individual decisions.

I can't tell you how uncomfortable that notion makes me feel.

When we have people casting ballots on the basis of 'name recognition', I have little faith that these same people can/will generate qualified opinions sufficient to have them making decisions previously made by somewhat-vetted public servants.

This may seem to some to be a contradiction/hypocritical to my town halls initiative, but in fact, it proves the necessity of this social arena; only when engagement increases should such a profound shift in process be considered.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-09-19 17:59:49

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted September 19, 2011 at 11:10:19

Voting for a "leader" who represents "most" of what you believe only made sense when polling on policy points was impossible - which it isn't anymore...

Yeah, but voting in a leader who just sways with public opinion is exactly what happened last November and look how great that's going. We still need leaders to present a coherent, realistic vision that takes into account minority views, but blind populism isn't the answer.

Compromise needs to make a strong comeback in our democracies, and that can occur even at the ballot box. As Marvin and Undustrial mention, reform is definitely necessary, and a first step might be something as simple as a ranked ballot, or some other system that does not discount the votes of those who choose a losing candidate.

Here's an article by a friend of mine that was just published in the KW Record on that idea...

It’s time that all of our votes were treated equally by Sean Geobey.

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