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Elections Ontario continues to fail to inform voters of their full voting rights

Information and ads during election campaign must have key messages to encourage voter turnout

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

OTTAWA -  Today, Democracy Watch called on Elections Ontario to correct its website because, as it has since 1990, it continues to fail to inform Ontario voters of their full voting rights.  Democracy Watch is also very concerned that Elections Ontario will misinform voters in printed materials sent to them, and will have yet another ineffective voter turnout advertising campaign for the upcoming provincial election.

On the main pages of its "We Make Voting Easy" website, Elections Ontario does not mention that Ontario voters have the right to decline their ballot and have it counted separately from a vote for a candidate or a spoiled ballot.  The sub-pages on the website, including the page entitled "Voting in Person", also fail to inform voters of this right.

Elections Ontario's civics education program "Voting Rules Fact Sheet" is likely also incorrect, and as a result is misleading young voters on their voting rights.


Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa's message on the Elections Ontario website says "We are on a mission to make voting easy, and that means putting the needs of the elector first."

"Elections Ontario claims to put the needs of voters first, but isn't even providing voters with information about all their voting rights.  This is negligent and undemocratic, and the information must be added to their website immediately," said Duff Conacher, Founding Board member of Democracy Watch.  "Some voters may not support any party that has a candidate in their riding, and they need to know that they have the right to vote for 'none of the above' by declining their ballot."

Section 53 of Ontario's Election Act states as follows:
"Declined ballot
53.  An elector who has received a ballot and returns it to the deputy returning officer declining to vote, forfeits the right to vote and the deputy returning officer shall immediately write the word “declined” upon the back of the ballot and preserve it to be returned to the returning officer and shall cause an entry to be made in the poll record that the elector declined to vote.
R.S.O. 1990, c. E.6, s. 53."

Democracy Watch is also very concerned that, as in past elections since 1990, Elections Ontario's printed material sent to voters, and TV and radio advertisements about voting will also mislead voters by failing to mention the right to decline your ballot and have it counted as a declined ballot.

Democracy Watch was consulted by Elections Ontario in the spring about its planned voter information and advertising campaign, and suggested very strongly that the information and the ads must mention the right to decline your ballot.  As well, it strongly suggested that if the ads hope to encourage higher voter turnout, they must also contain the following key messages:

  • "You never know when your vote may count" -- with examples from past provincial elections such as 1985 and 1990, and from specific ridings in various elections, all  of which show clearly that local and provincial election results cannot be predicted in advance, and;
  • "If you don't vote, you don't count" -- making it clear that politicians don't really care about you if you don't vote because non-voters do not help them get elected, or defeated.

"If Elections Ontario again spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on an ad campaign that has the wrong messages as it has in past elections, and again negligently fails to inform voters of their right to decline their ballot, no one should expect voter turnout to increase significantly in the October provincial election," said Conacher.

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Duff Conacher, Board member of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179

Democracy Watch's Ontario Election 2011 page


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Contact in Ottawa, Canada at Tel: 613-241-5179
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© 2011 Democracy Watch