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Use Options for Accessible Voting for Voters With Disabilities in This Ontario Election

September 20, 2011

SUMMARY

It is very important that every eligible voter, including all voters with disabilities, votes in the October 6, 2011 Ontario election. This update gives you current, detailed information from Elections Ontario on options you can use to increase accessibility of voting to voters with disabilities. We hope this helps you ensure that you can exercise your fundamental democratic right to vote.

MORE DETAILS

We and our predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, have been tirelessly campaigning for over 12 years to ensure that elections in Ontario are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities. This has been quite a battle. Too often polling stations have not been accessible to those with mobility disabilities. Our ballot has never in the past enabled voters with vision loss or dyslexia to privately and independently mark their ballot, and verify their choice.

We won some partial victories in 2010, in our blitz to get amendments to Ontario’s Elections Act to achieve this. To learn about our battle last year regarding Bill 231, watch AODA Chair David Lepofsky’s interview on May 28, 2010 on TV Ontario’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” on Youtube (with automated captioning available, if needed). Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocRbsLQC_y4

Elections Ontario is the public agency responsible for administering provincial elections in Ontario. We asked Elections Ontario to send us an explanation of the options for accessible voting in this election. We set their response out below. We very much appreciate Elections Ontario’s prompt reply.

Elections Ontario advised us that as one accessible voting option, there will be an accessible voting machine for people who cannot mark their own ballot in the Returning Office of each riding, and also in the satellite Returning Office in certain ridings as well. There are a total of 107 ridings in Ontario. Elections Ontario advises that there will be a total of 144 of these accessible machines deployed, meaning one in each riding’s Returning Office, and an added 37 divided up among satellite Returning Offices in certain of the ridings. That means in any single riding, there will be as few as one accessible voting machine, and in a minority of ridings, more than one.

This is an improvement over past Ontario general elections, where there were no accessible voting machines. Yet it is a far cry from what voters without disabilities enjoy. They get to vote in private, independently, and to verify their choice, in their home’s immediate vicinity.

As a telling point of comparison, in the City of Chicago, with a population of some 3 million people, there are about 2,500 accessible voting machines. Ontario will only have 144. Ontario still has quite a long way to go.

Should Ontario adopt internet and telephone voting, as have some places like the City of Cobourg, voters with disabilities will enjoy far greater access to the ballot. Voters without disabilities too will enjoy greater ease of voting. This could save money on accessible voting machines. We regret that last year, Elections Ontario rejected our request that it use telephone and internet voting in this election. To learn more about this, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/04082011.asp

We urge everyone to take advantage of the advance polls to vote before October 6, 2011, the election day itself, if you can. Advance polls are open every day starting September 21 right up to election day October 6, 2011. contact Elections Ontario to find out where you can vote at advance polls.

Voting at an advance poll will let you try to ensure that you have accessible transportation arranged, and to see in advance if there are any voting barriers confronting you. If you wait until October 6, and then face insurmountable barriers, you won’t be able to come back another day, to get barrier-free access to the vote.

Check with Elections Ontario to find out where your polling station and is and make sure it is accessible. Elections Ontario is required to ensure that all polling stations are accessible. However, Elections Ontario has a track record of too often having accessibility barriers at some polling stations. When you go to vote, make sure you bring all the identification documentation they require.

If you need paratransit to vote, either at an advance poll or on election day, book it early.

In this election, for the first time, you have the option of voting by mail, or having an Elections Ontario official do a home visit to assist you to vote. Learn how to exercise these options. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply for them. The best resource on how to do this is Elections Ontario itself.

If you or others you know face any barriers in the voting process, or need information to help you arrange to vote, here is what Elections Ontario told us you should do:

“If an individual has an accessibility problem they should contact their local Returning Officer, in the first instance, in order to resolve their concern at the electoral district level. Elections Ontario also has a Public Call Centre for general inquiries. The toll free number for the Public Call Centre is 1-888-668-8683 The TTY/ATS number is 1-866-469-1118. These numbers will remain operational until October 6, 2011.”

You can find the toll-free phone number for your riding’s Returning Office by visiting: http://wemakevotingeasy.ca/media/en/Returning%20officers.pdf

We hope that Elections Ontario’s efforts will ensure that voters with disabilities face no barriers in this election. However, if you or others you know do face barriers, let us know. We cannot advise on specific barriers, but want to keep track of how things go in the 2011 Ontario election from the perspective of accessible voting. Email us at: aodafeedback@gmail.com in ###

Also, if you find that a polling station is inaccessible, or you face other barriers to voting, we encourage you to immediately alert your local media. In the past, media coverage of such an incident has helped our campaign move forward on this issue.

To learn more about our long campaign to make Ontario elections fully accessible, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/default.asp

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ELECTION ONTARIO’S INFORMATION ON ACCESSIBLE VOTING OPTIONS FOR VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES

Voting at the 2011 Ontario General Election

You have more options than ever before to vote in the way that suits you best.

If you are 18 years of age or older, a Canadian citizen, and a resident of Ontario, you can vote in the Provincial General Election.

Voting In Person on Election Day

Election day is Thursday, October 6, 2011. Our trained officials make voting easy and accessible for everyone.

Polls are open for 12 hours on election day, beginning at 9 a.m. in most of Ontario (in the eastern time zone) or at 8 a.m. in some parts of northwestern Ontario (in the central time zone).

We offer a variety of assistive devices for voters such as ballot templates with Braille numbering and cut-outs magnifiers, and easy-grip pencils.

If you require personal assistance, you can have a friend or support person with you at every step of the voting process.

In addition, your service animal can remain with you at all times.

If an alternative voting location in your electoral district is more convenient for you because of a disability, we can arrange for you to vote at your preferred location.

We are here to offer assistance at every step.

Bring one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address to your local returning office. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID or to find the address of your local returning office, please visit our website (elections.on.ca). We have also included a list of acceptable forms of ID at the end of this document.

When you arrive at the poll, an election official will ask for your Notice of Registration Card and identification.

An election official will use your Notice of Registration Card to find your information on the Voters List.

You can still vote if you do not have this card. Showing proof of name and residential address and completing a simple form will add you to the list and allow you to vote.

The election official will hand you a folded and initialed ballot and direct you to the voting screen.

Use the pencil supplied to mark an “X” in one of the circular spaces on the ballot.

Refold the ballot and hand it to the election official who will check the initials and hand it back to you.

Once you’ve placed your ballot in the ballot box, you’ve finished the voting process.

Voting In Person at Advance Polls

Advance polls in your area will take place over a period of 10 days, starting 15 days before election day.

The process is the same as for voting in person on election day.

Bring one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address to your local returning office. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID or to find the address of your local returning office, please visit our website (elections.on.ca). We have also included a list of acceptable forms of ID at the end of this document.

Voting In Person at Your Returning Office

You can vote in person at your returning office on any day before election day using a special ballot.

Bring one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address to your local returning office. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID or to find the address of your local returning office, please visit our website (elections.on.ca). We have also attached a list of acceptable forms of ID at the end of this document.

Assistive Voting Technology at the returning office may help you to vote privately and independently.

Voting In Person – Assistive Voting Technology At Your Returning Office
Elections Ontario offers assistive voting technology to ensure that every eligible Ontarian has an equal opportunity to vote privately and independently. Assistive voting technology (AVT) allows the voter to be certain that the ballot was marked and cast as intended.

Assistive voting technology is available at your local returning office or satellite office from September 21 to October 5.

An election official will greet you and ask for your Notice of Registration Card and identification.

The election official will issue your ballot and ask you to proceed to the Assistive Voting Technology in order to vote.

Before you use the Assistive Voting Technology, an election official will explain the voting options available and will ask you which assistive device you would prefer to use.

You have several options.

The audio tactile interface uses Braille and colour-coded buttons in contrasting shapes to assist you in creating and marking a ballot.

You may use colour-coded paddles, also in contrasting shapes. With this device, you can navigate your ballot by pressing Left or Right.

Finally, a sip and puff interface allows you to control all movement by inhaling or exhaling through a tube.

Once you have chosen the assistive device you wish to use, the election official will insert your ballot into the printer.

You will be guided through the voting process by a series of audio instructions. Once you have indicated your candidate of choice, your ballot will be printed and inserted into a secrecy folder.

The election official will feed your ballot into the tabulator. Once the tabulator has accepted your ballot, the voting process is complete.

Voting in Person Using Special Ballot

Bring one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address to your local returning office. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID or to find the address of your local returning office, please visit our website (elections.on.ca). We have also included a list of acceptable forms of ID at the end of this document.

A Special Ballot Officer will give you a Special Ballot Application.

Complete your application form and return it to the Special Ballot Officer.
Show the Special Ballot Officer your ID.

If the Special Ballot Officer approves your completed application form and your ID, he or she will give you a Special ballot.

Complete your ballot and return it to the Special Ballot Officer.

You can vote by Special ballot until October 5, 2011. On October 5, you must vote by 6:00 PM ET or 5:00 PM CT.

Voting By Mail Using Special Ballot

For the first time in a provincial election in Ontario, voters can apply in advance for a mail-in ballot and vote anytime over the election period.

Fill out a Special Ballot Application:

a) pick up an application form from your local returning office or
b) download an application form from the Elections Ontario website
(elections.on.ca) or
c) contact your local returning office or Elections Ontario, Special Ballots, and we will email, mail or fax you an application form.

Photocopy one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID, please visit our website at elections.on.ca or see the list at the end of this document.

3. Send your completed Special Ballot Application and a copy of your ID to Elections Ontario:

By email: Please scan your completed application form and your ID. Email both files to sb@elections.on.ca. Please type “Special Ballots – Application” in the subject line.

By mail or courier: Please send your completed application form and a photocopy of your ID to your local returning office or to:
Elections Ontario
Attention: Special Ballots
51 Rolark Drive
Toronto ON MIR 3B1
Canada

By fax: Please fax your completed application form and a photocopy of your ID to 416.212.8723. Our toll-free fax number in Canada and the United States is 1.888.483.4448. Please type “Elections Ontario – Attention: Special Ballots” on your cover sheet.

What happens once Elections Ontario receives my Special Ballot Application and ID?

1. A Special Ballot Officer will review your application form and the copy of your ID.

2. If he or she approves them, your name will be struck off the Voters List, which means that you will be voting by Special ballot. You will not be able to vote in person at an advance poll or on October 6, 2011.

3. We will send you a Special Ballot Kit. The kit includes a Special ballot, a Secrecy Envelope, an Elector Confirmation envelope, a pre-addressed Return Envelope and detailed voting instructions.

Is there a deadline for applying to vote by mail by Special ballot?

Elections Ontario or your local returning office must receive your completed application form and a copy of your ID no later than 6:00 PM ET or 5:00 PM CT on September 30, 2011.

IMPORTANT!

Elections Ontario or your local returning office must receive your Special ballot by 6:00 PM ET or 5:00 PM CT on October 6, 2011.

Special Ballot Home Visits

We will also assist you with voting at home by Special ballot if: it is impossible or unreasonably difficult for you to visit your returning office, you need assistance filling out your Special Ballot Application because of a disability or inability to read or write, and you live in the electoral district.

Telephone your local returning office to inquire about home visits.

You will be asked to confirm that those three conditions apply to you.

You will be asked if there are any specific accommodations that need to be known in order to accommodate your needs. You will also be asked if there are any building conditions or in-home conditions that the Special Ballot Officers should know about.

If you are eligible, a Special Ballot Officer will schedule a home visit for you.

At the agreed upon date and time, two Special Ballot Officers, a male and a female, will arrive for the scheduled visit. They will introduce themselves and be wearing badges that identify them as being Elections Ontario Special Ballot Officers.

You will need to have one piece of identification that includes your name and your residential address to your local returning office. For a full list of acceptable forms of ID or to find the address of your local returning office, please visit our website (elections.on.ca). We have also included a list of acceptable forms of ID at the end of this document.

You can fill out the application yourself, have a friend or support person do that on your behalf, or have the Special Ballot Officer fill it out for you. If you need assistance marking the ballot, you may receive that also.

The Special ballot voting process should take, on average, about 30 minutes to complete.

After Voting

At the end of your voting experience, whether it was at a voting location, by mail, or in your home, we invite you to tell us how we did. Your feedback will help us to make voting even easier for all Ontarians.

Visit http://www.wemakevotingeasy.ca/ to get more information on these and other options for voting in the Provincial General Election.

Identification Requirements for Voting in Ontario Provincial Elections

If your name is on the list or you have a Certificate to Vote you must provide the following identification to receive a ballot:

Show one piece of identification with name (name must match a name on the list)

Any document in the next list (for voters whose name is not on the list) or one of the following:

Birth Certificate
Canadian Forces Identification Card
Canadian Passport
Certificate of Canadian Citizenship (Citizenship Card)
Certificate of Indian Status (Status Card)
Old Age Security Card
Ontario Health Card (with or without address)
Social Insurance Number Card
Veterans Affairs Canada Health Card

Any document:
issued by the Government of Canada, Ontario or a municipality in Ontario or from an agency of such a government
issued by a Band Council in Ontario (established under the Indian Act)
Credit/Debit Card
Employee Card
Hospital Card or Bracelet
Student Card
Union Card or Professional Licence

If your name is not on the list;
you need to obtain a Certificate to Vote; or
you need to modify your personal information
you must provide the following identification to receive a ballot

Show one piece of identification that includes both name and residential address
Ontario Driver’s Licence
Ontario Photo-Card
Ontario Motor Vehicle Permit
Statement of Government Benefits (child tax benefit, old age security, etc.)

Any document:
issued by the Government of Canada, Ontario or a municipality in Ontario or from an agency of such a government
issued by a Band Council in Ontario (established under the Indian Act)
Bank/Credit Card Statement
Cancelled Personalized Cheque
“Certification of Identity and Residence” form signed by authorized administrator
Cheque stub, T4 tax slip or pay receipt issued by an employer
CNIB Identity Card
Document issued by a post-secondary school Campus Residence Official
Hospital Record/Document
Insurance Policy/Statement
Loan/Agreement with a Financial Institution
Post-secondary school Admissions Letter
Post-secondary school Transcript/Report Card
Post-secondary school Tuition/Fees Statement
Residential Lease, Rental or Mortgage Agreement/Statement
Please note: The Notice of Registration card (NRC) may NOT be used as proof of name; the NRC may be used as proof of residence ONLY. An elector must show a second piece of identification to prove name.

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

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