How would you like to vote on weekends? And online or by phone? Those are just a couple of ideas Elections Ontario floats in its annual report released Friday*. The annual report does not cover the recent general election, and much of it would have been written before the writs were drawn up and Ontarians re-elected Premier Kathleen Wynne and sent her Liberals back to office for a fourth term. And though voter turnout ticked up slighty to 52.1 per cent in 2014 from 48.2 per cent in 2011, the number is still low and Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa offers a few ideas to get Ontarians back to the polls. “Other democracies hold elections on weekends and their experience suggests that should Ontario follow suit, voter turnout may increase,” the annual report states. It also points out that schools are often used as polling locations and moving elections to non-school days would facilitate that process. The report also calls for a rethink of the traditional ballot box.
“Our electoral process is essentially as it was decades ago,” Essensa writes in his opening to the report. He said most voters still show up on election day, “fill out a paper ballot and put the ballot into a box.”
“It is a method that many Ontarians are comfortable with and I support those who desire to continue voting that way,” Essensa writes. “At the same time, it is my duty to provide electors with the widest range of voting choices that we can reasonably provide, safely and securely.”
Using a “network voting” — online or phone-based voting — could reduce administrative costs and increase turnout, Essensa notes in a separate report on alternative voting technologies. But he also notes that public opinion is split and many fear tampering in the system of the paper ballot is eliminated.
“Only half of Ontario electors believe that security and integrity can be maintained with internet or telephone voting systems,” according to an Elections Ontario survey conducted following the 2011 general election.