Toronto’s upcoming election on Oct. 24 will include several new features, prompting city officials to remind voters of rapidly approaching deadlines to take full advantage of options meant to increase the ease of casting a ballot.
Preparations have been underway since March in a general election that will see the city’s adoption of mail-in ballots for the first time. But with Friday’s 4:30 p.m. deadline to apply to vote by mail, the city’s deputy clerk of Toronto elections said only about 20,000 people had signed up so far.
“Generally for the first few elections, you see lower numbers until voters become comfortable with it,” Fiona Murray said.
Murray and city clerk John Elvidge said the city has been reviewing best practices in other regions that have adopted mail-in voting and feel confident Toronto can avoid concerns seen in other elections.
“We’ve built in security and procedures that address some of the concerns that have happened in other jurisdictions and we feel confident we have a secure system to vote,” Murray said.
The city piloted mail-in voting during the Scarborough-Agincourt byelection in January 2021 and about 29 per cent of those casting a ballot took advantage of the new system.
In this municipal election, those who get a mail-in package will have to get it in the hands of officials by Oct. 21 at noon. If that stresses anyone out, the city will soon be dispatching high-visibility mailboxes to each of the city’s wards. Each of the boxes will be secured and monitored by CCTV, with teams collecting ballots every day.
“I know a lot of people potentially might say, ‘Well, can’t someone get in the box and start grabbing marked ballots out of it?'” Murray said. “It would be physically impossible, I’ve tried it,” she said, noting she couldn’t get past her elbow in the top of the mailbox.
Officials may feel confident mail-in voting can be done without any issues, but the same can’t be said for online voting. Murray said the city’s IT staff determined voting by internet remains rife with security issues for the time being.
Along with the new system, the city will also be rolling out new equipment for the first time in about two decades. That includes new tabulators and vote counting machines that will be used to keep track of ballots from long-term care homes and post boxes.
Three extra advance voting days have also been added to the city’s roster, giving a total of eight days from Oct. 7 to Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at two voting locations per ward. The city is also making it easier for students to vote, by adding advance voting days over the Thanksgiving long weekend.
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