Ensuring Access to Voting in Ontario

Community Living Ontario participated in a community consultation this week held by Elections Ontario to review the voting process for the June 2018 provincial election.

Specifically, the review focused on accessibility during the election process for people with various disabilities. Elections Ontario wants to measure how effective its ongoing accessibility reforms have been.

In preparation for the consultation, Community Living Ontario surveyed its members, asking for their experiences. Based on the responses received, Community Living Ontario shared the following observations with Elections Ontario.

Most respondents reported that they found it easy to locate, enter, and navigate their polling station. Some concern was expressed by members about the layout of the voting locations where people had to maneuver to different parts of the room, around tables and people. It was challenging for people who use wheelchairs or walkers, especially as the numbers of people in the room increased. Community Living Ontario recommended that considerations be made to the size and layout of the polling locations to address the issues raised.

Elections Ontario has introduced a number of accessible voting options in recent years with the aim of improving accessibility, including options such as voting by mail, home visits, braille templates, voting while in hospital, and a focus on training for staff at the polling stations among other things.

Community Living Ontario applauds Elections Ontario for its efforts in providing such alternatives. It is interesting, however, that we heard from only one person who used an alternative form of voting, that being voting by mail, which the person said they did with support from a staff person.

People did share positive comments about staff members at polling locations that were ready to help voters who needed assistance with accessibility. The experiences suggest that efforts to improve staff training have been effective.

Community Living Ontario also shared advice provided by one of our member organizations that one of the biggest challenges to voting is that some people they support are picture-oriented and have difficulty distinguishing names.

In elections where people are running for a specific party, it was suggested that the ballot include a colour logo of the party beside the person’s name to help voters associate a candidate with the party they are aligned with.

Community Living Ontario will continue to work with Elections Ontario in its ongoing effort to improve access in the voting process. If you have information about your experience in the June 2018 election that you would like us to pass along, or suggestions for future reforms to the election process, please email Gordon Kyle, Director of Policy at Community Living Ontario, at gordon@communitylivingontario.ca.

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