A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Citizens drive out of their way to vote

But not by choice. Many rural residents who have just received their (cards) were surprised to learn that they are expected to travel beyond their local community to vote despite their being a polling station much closer. In some cases this involves driving 20 to 30 Km and past one or more of those nearby polling stations! In one community near this writers residence folks within walking distance of the polling station must travel to one of two places some 10 to 20 Km away to vote whilst residents from further away must vote at the local polling station where they (the local residents) cannot. I must presume that this is not an isolated incident in just our area as the practice of denying local residents access to the local polling station seems to encompass several of the polls that I have checked around here.

As one of those affected I contacted Elections Ontario to make them aware that they had a major problem with such arrangements being a big disincentive to voters. Here is the response I received.

Returning Officers must consider a number of criteria to find the most suitable voting locations including convenience for electors; the location’s capacity; the extent to which electors are likely to be familiar with the location; any significant barriers that electors will encounter in reaching the location; and any other factor that may be relevant to the proper conduct of the election. 

Additionally, recent amendments to the Election Act require that all voting locations are fully accessible. To meet these new requirements, Elections Ontario has developed comprehensive Site Accessibility Standards to help Returning Officers find the most accessible voting locations in their electoral district.

The changes we have made to selecting voting locations mean that some buildings which have held polls in the past are no longer used. In some instances, electors may therefore have to travel further to a voting location than in the past.

In the examples you have cited, it is true that in some instances there may be other voting locations that are closer geographically, however these locations are already at capacity. The electors would then be assigned to the next closest accessible location”.

Given that just a few months before Elections Canada managed to find suitable locations to enable voters to, for the most part, vote within or close to their local community I find the excuses given disingenuous to say the least. They say “The electors would then be assigned to the next closest accessible location”, however in our own case there are no less that three polls closer than the one to which we have been assigned!

I have, by using multiple searches for addresses via the Elections Ontario search engine, (not a user friendly process) and by questioning local area residents, produced the map below of one particular rural area which as far as I can tell is an accurate representation of the poll locations. It clearly shows the rather illogical way the polling places are allocated. We know that Elections Ontario has been under pressure to better accommodate those with physical disabilities but doing so by putting disincentives to vote up for many other voters hardly seems productive.

Click on MAP to enlarge
(My red overlay on the EO map, the circles represent polling station locations)

A poll clerk at one of the advanced polls told me that there is already considerable discontent with the voting locations (this not from the area mentioned in the original post on my other blog), as another who worked in previous polls said “It’s broken on all levels and no amount of tweaking is going to fix it – it needs a major overhaul.”, Whist talking about the federal election it is clear that the same hold true at the provincial level. The allocation and placement of polling stations is most certainly 'broken'!

Its long past time for 'electronic voting' be it by phone, on the internet or by machine at a poll location – preferably all three! Elections Canada is working on such an initiative I believe. Let us hope that any system devised is shared across the country with both the provinces and municipalities- or will everybody devise their own system each different from the next? I think we all know which way that will go!
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