Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2010

In June 2008, the Legislative Assembly appointed a Select Committee on Elections to assess the effectiveness of Ontario’s Provincial electoral legislation. The election laws were last comprehensively reviewed in 1968, more than 40 years ago.

The Committee heard from a variety of stakeholders, including:

  • The Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario 
  • Staff from Elections Ontario
  • Returning Officers
  • Candidates and political party representatives 
  • Delegates from disability organizations

Elections Ontario recommended modernizing the electoral process and making elections more accessible to voters.

This section highlights key changes to the Election Act and the Election Finances Act effected by the Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2010, which received Royal Assent on May 18, 2010.

Recommendations by the Chief Electoral Officer:

Ontario’s social and cultural environment has changed significantly since the province’s election laws were last reviewed more than 40 years ago. The typical Ontario voter expects to be able to engage in the democratic process in a modern, responsive and efficient manner.
The Chief Electoral Officer, Greg Essensa, made 28 recommendations in his submission to the Select Committee on Elections entitled Modernizing Ontario’s Electoral Process: Recommendations for Legislative Change.  More than half of his recommendations have been adopted as amendments to Ontario’s election laws.

Amendments to the Election Act:

This section identifies key areas of change in the electoral process for Ontario voters.

Special Ballot

The Special Ballot makes voting more accessible for voters in Ontario. It has replaced the proxy voting process. Sections 45.1 to 45.13 of the Election Act provide detailed information about the Special Ballot process.

Vote by Mail

Voters may apply for a Special Ballot to vote by mail. All electors may vote by Special Ballot, but this voting method is likely to interest:

  • students, 
  • members of the Canadian Forces, and 
  • persons living and working overseas.

Vote in Person

Voters who would like to cast their ballot before election day may apply for a Special Ballot and vote over 28 days of the election period.

Home Visits

Voters who are housebound or will find it difficult to get to their voting location on election day may apply for a home visit. A voter can request the assistance of Special Ballot Officers to complete an application form and to vote from home. A voter may apply for a home visit if he or she:

  • finds it impossible or unreasonably difficult to go to the returning office and
  • needs assistance because of a disability or because he or she is unable to read or write. 

Assistive Voting Technology

Section 44.1 of the Election Act requires the Chief Electoral Officer to make accessible voting technology available in each Returning Office and Satellite Office beginning 15 days before polling day until the day before the election. 

Voters will be able to use assistive voting technology to mark and verify their ballots by themselves. This technology was available for the first time in the 2011 Provincial General Election at Returning Offices and Satellite Offices across Ontario. The technology includes tools that can assist voters with diverse accessibility needs.

Voters with limited or no vision will be able to mark and generate a ballot by following step-by-step audio commands. Voters with physical disabilities will be able to use “sip and puff” technology or paddles. 

Assistive Voting Technology

Accessible Voting Locations

Section 13.1 of the Election Act requires Returning Officers to ensure that all voting locations are accessible. Elections Ontario created Site Accessibility Standards with mandatory and uniform criteria to select voting locations. Additionally, Elections Ontario invited feedback from the public on almost 8,000 proposed voting locations to ensure that voting on election day is convenient, accessible and secure.

Residential Requirements for Students

Section 15(1.3) of the Election Act permits post-secondary students to choose to vote in their home electoral district or in the electoral district in which they are temporarily living and going to school.

Accessibility Training

Section 55.0.1 of the Election Act directs Returning Officers to ensure that all election workers be trained in how best to serve voters with disabilities. Elections Ontario has developed video and in-person training programs for all front-line personnel to ensure quality customer service to voters with disabilities. 

For details on these and other amendments to the Election Act, please see the Elections Ontario Accessibility Action Plan, the e-Laws website http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/index.html or contact Elections Ontario at media@elections.on.ca.

Amendments to the Election Finances Act

This section lists key areas of change that will interest candidates, parties, constituency associations and the media

The new legislation has made significant changes to how a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) will perform duties and responsibilities under the EFA.

The following provisions took immediate effect on May 18, 2010:

  1.  Acceptance of contributions greater than $25 other than by cheque, money order or credit card (for individuals)
  2. Clarification regarding contributions from Estates
  3. Cancellation notices for tax credit receipts
  4. New blackout restriction on polling day surveys
  5. Elimination of blackouts on ‘Official’ web sites
  6. New formula for calculating Campaign Expense Limits

Additionally, on June 1, 2012 some parties will be required to maintain an electronic database for recording contributions and issuing receipts.  Parties will also be able, if they wish, to voluntarily begin to use the database as early as June 1, 2011.

The Election Finances Act can be found on the e-Laws website . Detailed descriptions of changes to the Ican be accessed by downloading this memo.

updated December, 2011