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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO
May 14, 2012
An organized campaign has been waged since 1999 to make Ontario elections fully accessible to voters with disabilities. As part of this effort, we have
advocated for several years for Ontario to provide the option of telephone and
internet voting in Ontario elections. These technologies could be very helpful
at overcoming serious barriers that voters with disabilities confront when they
try to exercise their fundamental right to independently and privately vote.
As the next step in this campaign, the AODA Alliance wrote to Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa on May 14, 2012 to call for Elections Ontario to deploy the options of telephone and internet voting in the upcoming Ontario by-election in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding. That letter is set out below. This by-election was triggered by the resignation of Conservative MPP Elizabeth Witmer.
We seek these voting options for all voters, not just for voters with disabilities.
For general background on our campaign for accessible elections for voters with disabilities, visit
In 2009, the McGuinty Government introduced Bill 231 into the Ontario legislature to modernize Ontario’s election legislation.
To see our initial call for Bill 231 to be strengthened to provide for accessible elections for voters with disabilities, visit
To read the AODA Alliance’s March 17, 2010 brief to the Ontario Legislature on how to strengthen Bill 231, visit http://www.www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/newsub2011/please-endorse-the-aoda-alliance-brief-on-strengthening-bill-231-to-ensure-fully-accessible-elections-for-voters-and-candidates-with-disabilities/
To listen to the AODA alliance’s March 31, 2010 presentation to a Standing Committee of the Ontario Legislature on the need to strengthen Bill 231’s accessible voting provisions, visit http://www.www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/0310-lepofsky-presentation-bill-231.mp3
To read the Toronto Star’s April 12, 2010 editorial calling for improvements on the accessibility of elections for voters with disabilities, visit http://www.www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/newsub2011/the-toronto-star-publishes-a-great-editorial-in-support-of-our-call-for-accessible-elections/
To read the AODA Alliance’s May 3, 2010 letter to Elections Ontario on the day the Legislature passed Bill 231, visit
The AODA Alliance’s November 18, 2010 letter to Elections Ontario, calling for telephone and internet voting in the October 2011 Ontario General election, is available at http://www.www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/newsub2011/aoda-alliance-calls-on-elections-ontario-to-provide-internet-and-telephone-voting-and-more-than-one-accessible-voting-machine-per-riding-in-the-october-2011-ontario-election/
Elections Ontario’s December 3, 2010 letter to the AODA Alliance is available at http://www.aoda.ca/?p=1092
Elections Ontario’s November 17, 2011 letter to the AODA Alliance on its progress towards telephone and internet voting is available athttp://www.www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/new2011/three-developments-in-our-quest-for-internet-and-telephone-voting-to-promote-accessibility-for-voters-with-disabilities/
In the October 2011 Ontario election, the New Democratic Party promised to introduce amendments into the Legislature to strengthen the accessibility provisions of Ontario’s Elections Act.
To learn more about the 2011 NDP election promise on elections accessibility, visit
ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS
WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Essensa, Chief Electoral Officer
51 Rolark Drive
facsimile (416) 326-6200
Making Ontario Elections Fully Accessible to All Voters with Disabilities
We are writing to ask whether Elections Ontario will be providing the option of
telephone and internet voting in the forthcoming by-election in the
Kitchener-Waterloo riding. We urge Elections Ontario to provide an option for
telephone and internet voting in this upcoming by-election, and to take all
needed steps now to ensure that these will be available.
As a result of the recent resignation of Conservative MPP Elizabeth Witmer, there
will be a by-election in the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo. As you know,
Ontario’s Elections Act gives Elections Ontario authority to use telephone and
internet voting in a by-election. As you also know, we have been advocating for
several years to have this technology deployed in Ontario elections. We seek it
to help make the voting process accessible to voters with disabilities.
Elections Ontario has publicly acknowledged that many voters with disabilities
now do not have the opportunity to independently and privately mark their own
ballot in private, and to verify their choice. You have recognized that the
right to independently mark one’s ballot in private and to verify one’s
selection so is fundamentally important for voters.
Telephone and internet voting would overcome many serious barriers to accessible voting for many voters with disabilities. For those who cannot independently and privately mark their own paper ballot and verify their choice due to a disability like blindness or dyslexia, telephone and internet voting can
liberate them from the need to ask someone else to mark their ballot for them.
If they choose the option of internet voting, they can use their own access
technology, if they have it available, to ensure that they can independently and
privately exercise their fundamental democratic franchise on their own. For
those many voters with mobility disabilities for whom a trip to a polling
station can present difficulties (like many seniors), telephone and internet
voting lets them easily and quickly vote from the comfort of their home, without
having to apply for a mail-in ballot. Mail-in ballots depend on the security and
reliability of our postal service.
We seek telephone and internet voting for all voters, not just voters with disabilities. For all voters, including those with no current disability, telephone and internet voting will make it quicker easier to vote, without having to arrange
child care, trek to a polling station and possibly wait in long lines.
According to 2010 amendments to Ontario’s Elections Act for which we campaigned long and hard, Elections Ontario has had a duty for the past two years to investigate alternative voting technologies like telephone and internet voting. It must report to the Legislature on these by no later than just over a year
from now, by June 30, 2013.
The Elections Act authorizes Elections Ontario to test alternative voting
technologies such as telephone and internet voting in a by-election. The 2010
amendments provide that after Elections Ontario tests alternative voting
technologies such as telephone and internet voting in a by-election, it can
recommend to a Committee of the Legislature that the legislative ban on
network-connected voting technologies be lifted. At that point, the Committee of
the Legislature is empowered to itself lift that legislative ban. That troubling
legislative ban on technology that can overcome serious accessibility barriers
that impede voters with disabilities, is itself entirely unjustified. The sooner
it is lifted, the better.
The Elections Act, as amended by Bill 231 in 2010, includes several provisions on
this topic. Section 4.1 provides:
4.1 (1) At a by-election, the Chief Electoral Officer may direct the use of voting equipment, vote-counting equipment or alternative voting methods that are different from what this Act requires.
(2) The Chief Electoral Officer’s direction shall describe the voting equipment, vote-counting equipment or alternative voting methods in detail and refer to the provisions of this Act that will not be complied with.
(3) No later than 21 days before polling day, the Chief Electoral Officer
(a) provide copies of the direction to the Speaker of the Assembly and to the leader of each registered party; and
(b) publish the direction on a website on the Internet. 2007, c. 15, s. 3.
Validity of election
(4) An election held in accordance with this section is not invalid by reason
of any non-compliance with this Act that is authorized by the Chief Electoral
Report to Speaker
(5) Within four months after polling day in the election, the Chief Electoral
(a) make a report to the Speaker of the Assembly on the voting equipment, vote-counting equipment or alternative voting methods used at the election; and
(b) make recommendations to the Speaker with respect to amending this Act so as to adopt the voting equipment, vote-counting equipment or alternative voting methods on a permanent basis.”
Section 44.2 provides:
“Use of alternative voting method
44.2 (1) At an election, if the following conditions are satisfied, the Chief Electoral Officer may direct that an alternative voting method, which may be an electronic voting method, be used:
1. The alternative voting method has been tested by being used at a by-election under section 4.1 and a report has been made to the Speaker of the Assembly under that section.
2. The Chief Electoral Officer is satisfied that the alternative voting method protects the security and integrity of the election to a standard that is equivalent to the protection afforded by section 44.1.
3. The Chief Electoral Officer has consulted, with registered parties, with electors
and with experts on the subject of voting methods, about the alternative voting
method, the test under section 4.1 and its results.
4. The Chief Electoral Officer has recommended the use of the alternative voting method at the election.
5. The Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly or another standing or select committee of the Assembly has held public hearings into the Chief Electoral Officer’s recommendation and approved it without modification. 2010, c. 7, s. 25.
(2) The Chief Electoral Officer’s direction shall,
(a) describe the alternative voting method in detail;
(b) refer to the provisions of this Act that will not be complied with, and specify
the nature and extent of non-compliance in each case; and
(c) identify the day or days on which the alternative voting method will be
available in the election. 2010, c. 7, s. 25.
(3) The Chief Electoral Officer shall,
(a) provide copies of the direction to the leader of each registered party and to
every candidate who has been nominated; and
(b) publish the direction on a website on the Internet. 2010, c. 7, s. 25.
(4) At a general election, the alternative voting method shall be made
available in every electoral district. 2010, c. 7, s. 25.
(5) When an alternative voting method is used at an election in accordance
with this section, the Chief Electoral Officer shall include a report on the
(a) in any report that the Chief Electoral Officer makes with respect to that election; or
(b) in the next annual report made under section 114.3.”
“44.3 The Chief Electoral Officer shall conduct a review of alternative voting
technologies, prepare a report of the review and, on or before June 30, 2013,
submit the report to the Speaker of the Assembly.”
Accordingly, much-needed and long -overdue progress in this area depends on
Elections Ontario now agreeing to test out telephone and internet voting in this
upcoming Ontario by-election. The forthcoming by-election in the
Kitchener-Waterloo riding is the first by-election that will occur in Ontario
after Elections Ontario acquired this important mandate.
We let Elections Ontario know by a letter as far back as May 3, 2010 that it was
important for Elections Ontario to be prepared to test this technology in the
first by-election to occur after Elections Ontario obtained this mandate.
Elections Ontario’s December 3, 2010 and November 17, 2011 letters to us
indicated that Elections Ontario was investigating options for such
technologies. Elections Ontario’s December 3, 2010 letter to us specifically
committed that you planned to be ready to test this technology in a by-election
after January 1, 2012. Your letter stated:
“We plan to be ready for this testing in by-elections held after January
1, 2012 as there are currently no vacancies in the Legislative Assembly and it
will be dissolved less than a year from now.”
As you know, telephone and internet voting has been successfully deployed in Ontario at the municipal level. The municipality of Cobourg, Ontario is a good example. It has also been successfully deployed in jurisdictions outside Ontario.
We ultimately want to ensure that the next Ontario provincial election has
telephone and internet voting. With a minority government now in power, the next Ontario general election could well occur well before 2015. In light of the amendments to the Elections Act that we won two years ago, the critical next step to achieve our goal will be Elections Ontario testing out this technology in this
It is important for telephone and internet voting to be available throughout the
by-election voting period, including on voting day itself. It should not be
restricted to advance polling days. It was bizarre and unacceptable from the
perspective of voters with disabilities that in the October 2011 Ontario General
Election, Ontario spent substantial funds on the recommendation of Elections
Ontario to deploy one or two accessible voting machines in each Ontario riding,
but only made them available at advance polls, not on election day itself. It
was bad enough that in the last Ontario General Election, there were only one or
two accessible voting machines for each riding. It was worse that they could not
be used on the very day when most voters actually go to the polls.
We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible about Elections Ontario’s plans. We would appreciate as much detail as possible in your response. As always, we would be pleased to do whatever we can to assist in Elections Ontario’s efforts in this area.
David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont.
Chair, AODA Alliance
Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier, fax 416-325-9895, email
John Milloy, Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-3347, email
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416)
325-5240, email email@example.com
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate, fax (416)
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition, fax (416) 325-0491, email
Andrea Horwath, Third Party Leader, fax (416) 325-8222, email