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100-Year Anniversary

Elections Ontario's 100th anniversary

Explore the history of elections in Ontario.

1867 Ontario's first election

On September 3, 1867, the newly created province of Ontario holds its first election. Only landholding men over the age of 21 are able to vote. Voting is done through a show of hands.

1875 The secret ballot

The secret ballot is introduced in Ontario. It has remained important to the integrity of an election ever since.

1917 Women's right to vote      

Female British subjects over the age of 21 in Ontario win the right to vote. This effectively doubles the number of electors in the province.

1919 The Chief Election Officer is introduced

For the first time, a Chief Election Officer is appointed to administer an upcoming election and referendum. Allan Dymond, a Law Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, is given the responsibility of delivering fair and impartial elections.

1919 Women run for office       

As women vote for the first time in Ontario’s 15th general election, two women become the first to run for office: Justenia Sears runs in Ottawa West and Henrietta Bundy runs in Toronto North East, Seat B. Both are unsuccessful.

1919 Referendum on alcohol

In October 1919, the newly appointed Chief Election Officer, Allan Dymond, administers a referendum on the prohibition of alcohol. The majority of Ontarians vote in favour of continued prohibition.

1920 The Chief Election Officer position is made permanent

On June 4, 1920, the Chief Election Officer position is made permanent. Allan Dymond continues in the role for another 13 years until his retirement.

1933 Introduction of door-to-door enumeration

Door-to-door enumeration, or registering of voters, during the campaign is introduced to maintain the accuracy of the voters' list. Door-to-door revisions during an election continue to this day.

1943 First women elected in Ontario

Agnes MacPhail and Rae Luckock are the first women elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

1954 Indigenous right to vote

Indigenous people in Ontario are given the unconditional right to vote in provincial elections.

1962 First independent electoral boundaries commission

Ontario’s Chief Election Officer, Roderick Lewis, is appointed to serve on the province’s first independent electoral boundaries commission. The non-partisan commission is responsible for redrawing Ontario’s electoral district boundaries.

1963 Ontario's first Black MPP

Leonard Braithwaite wins a seat in the 1963 general election, becoming Ontario’s first Black Canadian MPP.

1970 The office of the Chief Election Officer is created

After decades of operating out of Queen’s Park, Roderick Lewis, the Chief Election Officer, moves his office to Toronto’s east end—establishing Elections Ontario.

1971 Voting age lowered to 18

The voting age in Ontario is lowered from 21 to 18.

1975 The Election Financing Commission

Ontario introduces election financing legislation and establishes the Commission on Election Finances to oversee political entity registration and compliance.

1977 Ballot boxes change

Recyclable cardboard ballot boxes are used in a provincial general election for the first time. The switch from metal to cardboard means the ballot boxes are easier to store and ship.

1983 The Ontario Electoral Boundaries Commission

Ontario’s second electoral boundaries commission is established on June 24, 1983. The commission includes Chief Election Officer Warren Bailie.

1990 Ontario's first Indigenous MPP

Peter North wins a seat in the 1990 general election, becoming Ontario’s first Indigenous MPP.

1990 Elections Ontario introduces election management software

Elections Ontario introduces the Elections Ontario Management Information System to administer elections. It compiles data on candidates, Returning Officers and electoral districts dating back to 1867.

1990 Accessible voting

Ontario’s Election Act is amended to allow voters with disabilities to receive assistance from a support person while marking their ballots.

1996 Provincial and federal boundaries are aligned

New legislation aligns the electoral district boundaries in Ontario with the federal ones on a continuing basis.

1998 The Permanent Register of Electors for Ontario

The Permanent Register of Electors for Ontario is established. The voters list, as it is commonly called, is a continuously updated list of Ontario’s registered voters.

1998 Elections Ontario and the Commission on Election Finances are merged

The Commission on Election Finances is merged with Elections Ontario.

2005 Electoral district boundary changes

Ontario aligns the boundaries of 96 southern electoral districts with their federal counterparts but maintains existing boundaries in northern Ontario.

2007 The Chief Electoral Officer

The Chief Election Officer title becomes the Chief Electoral Officer to be consistent with other Canadian jurisdictions. At the same time, Ontario introduces fixed-date elections.

2007 Public education

Elections Ontario starts a public education campaign at schools to inform new voters about voting and elections in Ontario.

2007 Electoral reform referendum

A referendum on electoral reform asks voters to choose between the existing first-past-the-post system or a proposed mixed-member proportional system. The majority of Ontarians vote to keep the existing system.

2008 Ontario's seventh Chief Electoral Officer

Greg Essensa is appointed Ontario's seventh Chief Electoral Officer.

2010 Accessibility

To continue removing barriers to voting, Elections Ontario introduces new accessible voting measures: proposed voting locations are posted for public review and assistive voting technology is introduced in returning offices.

2010 Introduction of the special ballot

With a write-in special ballot, voters now have 28 days to vote at their returning office and can also vote by mail, through a home visit, or through the hospital program.

2015 Electoral district redistribution

Ontario’s southern electoral districts are aligned to the revised federal boundaries. The northern electoral districts are again maintained.

2016 Technology pilot

Elections Ontario successfully pilots ePoll books and vote tabulators in two by-elections. The technology replaces printed voters lists and manual ballot counts to make voting even faster.

2016 The Ontario Register of Future Voters

The Ontario Register of Future Voters is introduced, allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to add themselves to the provisional register and be automatically transferred to the voters list on their 18th birthday.

2017 Two new northern electoral districts

The Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission is established and includes Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa. Based on the commission’s recommendations, two additional electoral districts are created in Ontario’s north.

2017 eRegistration

Elections Ontario launches eRegistration to simplify the registration process for Ontario voters. The online tool allows voters to confirm, update, add or remove their information from the voters list.

2018 Voter Information Service

Ahead of the 2018 general election, Elections Ontario launches the Voter Information Service to provide voters with easy access to their voting information.

2018 A transformative election

For the 2018 general election, ePoll books and vote tabulators are used across the province—the first significant change to how Ontarians vote in over 100 years.

2020 Happy 100th birthday!

Over the past 100 years, Elections Ontario has administered 28 general elections, 149 by-elections and two referendums! We remain committed to meeting the changing needs of voters while upholding the integrity, accessibility and transparency of the electoral process in Ontario for years to come.