McGuinty Government Introduces Legislation To Modernize Elections



    Legislation Would Make Voting More Convenient And More Secure

    TORONTO, April 25 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is introducing
legislation that would, if passed, make it easier than ever for Ontarians to
vote while making the process more secure, Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Minister
Responsible for Democratic Renewal, announced today.
    "One of our most fundamental rights is the right to vote," said
Bountrogianni. "This legislation would make voting more convenient and more
accessible, and enhance the integrity of the electoral process."
    The Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2007 would, if passed, make it
easier for Ontarians to vote by:

    
    -   Increasing the number of advance polling days from six to 13
    -   Extending the polling day by one hour to 9 p.m. (8 p.m. in
        northwestern Ontario)
    -   Including candidates' party affiliation on the ballots (candidates
        not endorsed by a party could be identified as independents, at the
        candidate's request)
    -   Establishing additional accessibility criteria for selecting polling
        locations.

    The proposed legislation would also:

    -   Improve security by requiring voters to present identification in
        order to vote
    -   Allow the Chief Electoral Officer to test new voting or vote-counting
        methods in future by-elections
    -   Encourage higher turnout by giving the Chief Electoral Officer the
        authority to undertake election-related public education campaigns,
        and directing him to provide new-voter information to school boards
        for students approaching the voting age
    -   Make sure people who should be on the voters list are on the list
        through targeted registration. Voters would also be able to confirm
        on-line that they are on the list
    -   Include new reporting and transparency requirements for third parties
        that undertake election advertising, and eliminate the initial
        advertising blackout period for regularly scheduled elections.
    

    If passed, these changes will be in place for the October 10, 2007
election.
    Minister Bountrogianni said a number of the voting improvements in the
legislation were recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer.
    This legislation would also direct the Chief Electoral Officer to
undertake a comprehensive non-partisan public education campaign leading up to
the referendum on electoral reform.

    
    Disponible en français

                       www.democraticrenewal.gov.on.ca


    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       Modernizing Ontario's Elections

                 The Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2007
    

    The proposed Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2007 would make it
easier for Ontarians to vote, and improve the security and integrity of the
voting process. The legislation would also direct Elections Ontario to conduct
a neutral public education campaign for the upcoming referendum on electoral
reform.

    Making it Easier to Vote

    The changes in this bill would make it easier than ever for all Ontarians
to exercise their democratic right to vote by providing new, flexible voting
options:

    
    -   Extending polling hours by one additional hour at the end of polling
        day
    -   Increasing the number of advance poll days from 6 to 13
    -   Establishing additional accessibility criteria for selecting polling
        locations.
    

    Encouraging more people to vote

    The Chief Electoral Officer would be granted the explicit authority to
undertake public education and communications. The Chief Electoral Officer
would also be required to provide new-voter information to school boards, for
distribution to students approaching voting age.

    Improving election integrity

    The integrity of the voting process would be enhanced by:

    
    -   Requiring identification to vote, change information on the voters
        list, or add a name to the voters list on polling day.
    -   Allowing any eligible scrutineer to challenge the right to vote of an
        elector in their own or another electoral district, in a general
        election or by-election.
    

    Improving the voters list and making sure more eligible voters are on it

    Elections Ontario would be required to update the Permanent Register of
Electors for Ontario through targeted registration or any method deemed
appropriate by the Chief Electoral Officer, including enumeration, to ensure
it is current.

    Piloting new technology

    This legislation, if passed, would allow the testing of new voting or
vote-counting methods at a by-election at the Chief Electoral Officer's
discretion (removing the current requirement for party consent). It would also
allow on-line confirmation of status on the permanent register of electors.

    Third Party Election Advertising

    Third party election advertising would be regulated to enhance electoral
transparency, by ensuring the public knows who is paying for third party
advertising during election campaigns. If passed, this legislation will
require those engaged in election advertising to register and report their
advertising spending to Elections Ontario if it is greater than $500.

    Advertising Blackout Period

    If this legislation is passed, the initial advertising blackout period
for regularly scheduled elections would be eliminated. There is no longer a
need for this blackout period for regularly scheduled general elections
because the date is known in advance by all parties. The blackout period on
polling day, and the day before polling day, would be maintained. In the event
of unscheduled elections, and in by-elections, the initial advertising
blackout would remain in place.

    Referendum on Electoral Reform

    Comprehensive public education is critical to ensuring Ontarians have the
information they need to make their choice in a referendum on electoral
reform. The Citizens' Assembly voted on April 15 to recommend an alternative
electoral system. It will submit its final report with its recommendation on
May 15.
    This legislation would direct the Chief Electoral Officer to undertake a
public education campaign on the electoral system referendum. If this
legislation is passed, Elections Ontario will deliver neutral public education
to raise awareness of the referendum and to educate the public about the
alternatives under consideration.

    
    Disponible en français

                       www.democraticrenewal.gov.on.ca
    





For further information:

For further information: Eric McGoey, Minister's Office, (416) 326-5280

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