McGuinty Government Modernizing Elections



    Legislation Will Make Voting More Convenient And More Secure

    TORONTO, June 5 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is making it easier than
ever for Ontarians to vote while at the same time making the process more
secure, Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal,
announced today.
    "We are making it easier than ever for all Ontarians to exercise their
democratic right to vote by providing new, flexible voting options," said
Bountrogianni.
    "Ontarians lead busy lives working, raising families, and going to
school. We are ensuring that electoral processes keep pace with their needs."

    The Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2007, given Royal Assent today,
will make it easier for Ontarians to vote by:

    
    -   More than doubling the number of advance polling days from six to 13
    -   Extending the polling day by one hour to 9 p.m. (in northwestern
        Ontario, to 8 p.m.)
    -   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 in regularly scheduled elections.

    The legislation will 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.
    

    These changes, many of which were recommended by the Chief Electoral
Officer, will be in place for the October 10, 2007 election.
    This legislation will do more than just modernize Ontario's electoral
processes. It also directs the Chief Electoral Officer to undertake a
comprehensive neutral, non-partisan public education campaign leading up to
the October 10 referendum on electoral reform.
    "This legislation strikes a balance between real improvements to the
process and preventing any disruption of the upcoming election," said
Bountrogianni.
    "These measures also ensure that Ontarians will have the neutral and
non-partisan information they need to make their choice in October's
referendum."

    
    Disponible en français

                       www.democraticrenewal.gov.on.ca


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

                       Modernizing Ontario's Elections
                 The Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2007
    

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

    Making it Easier to Vote

    This Act now makes 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 will be granted the explicit authority to
undertake public education and communications. The Chief Electoral Officer
will 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 will 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 will 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 will 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 will also allow on-line
confirmation of status on the permanent register of electors.

    Third Party Election Advertising

    Third party election advertising will be regulated to enhance electoral
transparency, by ensuring the public knows who is paying for third party
advertising during election campaigns. 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

    The initial advertising blackout period for regularly scheduled elections
will 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, will 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's report, One Ballot - Two Votes: A New Way to
Vote in Ontario recommends that Ontario adopt a new Mixed Member Proportional
system. The government will hold a referendum on this recommendation in
conjunction with the next general election on October 10, 2007.
    This legislation directs the Chief Electoral Officer to undertake a
public education campaign on the electoral system referendum. 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: Sarah Charuk, Minister's Office, (416)
212-7234

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