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City of Toronto 2010 Municipal Election Accessibility Plan

By Michael Dytyniak, Summer Law Student
Posted August 17, 2010 

The City of Toronto recently released its “2010 Municipal Elections Accessibility Plan (Plan)”. In the introduction of the Plan it is stated:
 
The Election’s Accessibility Plan supports and strengthens the City’s commitment and efforts to respond to the needs of persons with disabilities.
 
The focus of this Plan is to ensure that electoral services are accessible to all electors and candidates, to identify and eliminate barriers for persons
with disabilities and to create a positive voting experience.


 
The Ontario government’s Bill 231, the Election Statute Law Amendment Act (2010), which amended the Elections Act for Ontario received Royal Assent in May 2010. Under the amended Elections Act, the government is to insure that each polling place is accessible to electors with disabilities. Under the Municipal Elections Act, the City Clerk has a responsibility to address the needs of voters with disabilities. However, “accessible to electors with disabilities” must mean more that free of physical barriers such as steps, manual doors and inaccessible physical spaces. “Fully accessible elections” must mean, first and foremost, that every voter has the opportunity to vote privately and independently.
 
While the city of Toronto should be commended for its stated commitment that every polling station will be accessible, many short comings remain in the
Accessibility Plan.
 
For example, voting by proxy or casting a ballot with assistance does not ensure that votes can be cast privately and independently. Also, polling stations should have one entrance that is accessible to all-separate accessible entrances are discriminatory and segregate people with disabilities.
 
Many proposed polling locations provide only a separate accessible entrance, lack automatic door openers, or provide only temporary ramps which may be problematic.

It is critical that everyone examine the proposed list of voting locations and provide elections officials with feedback or alternative polling locations.

The list of proposed sites is available at:
http://www.toronto.ca/elections/voters/voting-places.htm 

Feedback should be sent to:
City of Toronto Accessible Elections
Phone: 416-338-1111 (press 6)
E-mail: AccessibleElections@toronto.ca
Fax: 416-395-1300
TTY: 416-338-0889
 
Several other shortcomings are apparent in the Accessibility Plan:
 

  • It is unacceptable that touch screen voting machines and accessible voting machines are only available on advance voting days. Accessible voting equipment should be made available in at least one polling station per ward on voting day. Alternatively, accessible voting machines should be made available at designated locations and be suitably distributed across the city on voting days and the locations should be publicized well in advance
  • There is no information provided on the status of an in person demonstration of the accessible voting technologies in advance of the election
  • Information on the accessibility of locations for all-candidate information sessions has not been provided. Although the Plan states that all candidate
    information sessions must be held in accessible locations, it is not known if all these locations have been reviewed for accessibility
  • The planned enhancement to the City’s “Where Do I Vote” which allows citizens to provide feed back on the accessibility of voting places has not been completed
  • The “How to Vote” booklet has not yet been made available
  • Candidates are not required to make their campaigns accessible, and their campaign materials are not required to be available in accessible formats
  • Expenses for disabled candidates directly related to their disability; and expenses related to a candidate making their campaign and campaign materials accessible are not reimbursed by the City
  • Many aspects of the Accessibility Plan are listed as “Planned” or “In Progress.” Voters with disabilities and advocates should press City of Toronto
    elections officials on the current status of these items, and demand a commitment to completion dates.

 

Electronic Voting

 
More generally, the law governing municipal elections does not ban network-connected accessible voting technologies such as telephone and internet voting.

These can be excellent options for some voters with disabilities to make elections more accessible. Indeed, the town of Cobourg Ontario has already successfully implemented telephone and internet voting: According to statistical data from the 2006 Municipal Election in Cobourg almost 45% of participating voters used the internet option, while almost 11% voted using the telephone option. The initiative was so successful that Coburg is considering dispensing with paper ballots altogether for the 2010 election (see http://www.aoda.ca/?p=545). Voters should ask the City of Toronto elections officials and the Mayoral candidates why Canada’s largest
city has not moved forward with internet and telephone voting options, especially considering that there are various technologies and procedures available to ensure secure and accurate voting that can be easily audited.
 
The Plan invites those interested to provide feedback so that the City knows how to best provide an accessible election. Feedback can be submitted by:
 
E-mail: AccessibleElections@toronto.ca

Phone: 416-338-1111 (press 6)
Fax: 416-395-1300
TTY: 416-338-0889
 
By Mail:
City of Toronto
City Clerk’s Office
Elections & Registry Services
89 Northline Road
Toronto, ON M4B 3G1

The full 2010 Municipal Elections Accessibility Plan can be read at:
http://www.toronto.ca/elections/accessibility/plan.htm
 
Reproduced from ARCH Alert August 13, 2010 Newsletter http://www.archdisabilitylaw.ca/?q=read-august-13-2010-arch-alert