Just in time for the 2011 Provincial Election, Ontario has finally taken the leap into the 21st century and made some very progressive changes to the way we vote.
By Michael Borrelli
Published September 16, 2011
On October 6, don't vote. Even though polls across Ontario are open from 9am to 9pm, I suggest your time is better spent reading a book, watching TV, or going out for drinks with friends. Why bother waiting until that first Thursday in October to cast a ballot?
Just in time for the 2011 Provincial Election, Ontario has finally taken the leap into the 21st century and made some very progressive changes to the way we vote. Elections Ontario, the non-partisan Agency of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that runs elections here, has potentially re-enfranchised millions of citizens by reducing many of the barriers that keep nearly half of eligible voters from exercising their democratic right.
Not enough time in your busy day? Out of town that week? Maybe you're a student living away from home for the first time?
No problem. This year there are more ways to vote than ever before, and most radical of all: voters can cast their ballot essentially any time between now and E-day through the use of Special Ballots and Advance Polls.
Meanwhile, Advance Poll locations are already published, and you can start taking advantage of them starting next Wednesday, September 21 (hours of operation should be posted on that Notice of Registration Card you got in the mail).
No card? You can still register any time up until election day, or at the polls. Just bring ID with your name and residential address.
Also a welcome departure from the past: students can now vote on campus and need only show valid ID to register in their school's electoral district, ending the ridiculous practice of forcing post-secondary students to vote back in their hometowns, or trek far off campus to polls in unfamiliar, or inconvenient locations.
Most polls are to be wheelchair accessible, and all polls will offer other accessibility tools like magnifiers, material in braille, audio headphones, or "sip-and-puff" devices, giving almost everyone the opportunity to vote.
Sign-language interpreters can also be booked in advance, and some hospitals will also have polls. Those with restricted mobility can even arrange a home visit or can change their polling location to a more convenient one.
Hopefully all of these changes will result in a better turnout than in 2007, when less than 53% of eligible voters bothered to participate in Ontario's creaky, aging democracy. Results from the recent Federal Election in May showed a healthy increase in the number of voters using advance polls, and they may have contributed to the small uptick in voter turnout.
So, like I said, don't bother voting on October 6. Do it now.
Unless you're very unsure of whom to support, or worry that something game-changing is going to occur in the hours leading up to E-day, you might as well make this essential act of civic participation as convenient as possible. That way you won't be left kicking yourself on the 7th when you discover that the candidate you liked most lost by a single vote.
Besides, I know that in your deepest subconscious you can still hear your mom scolding you with the old proverb: "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."
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