Ontario’s chief electoral officer visited Markham April 5 to rally regional poll officials ahead of the provincial summer election.
Greg Essensa, who is in the midst of a provincial training tour, spoke with returning officers throughout York Region about the job ahead of them, set to begin by May 4. Elections Ontario will be rolling out new initiatives this year to get out the vote, including a new app and doubling advance voting days to 10.
Essensa said there will be plenty of options for voters in the upcoming election.
“We’re quite confident that an elector can pick and choose when is the best time for them to participate,” he said. “There are lots of channels and lots of options."
The election is on or before June 2, with Newmarket-Aurora having three candidates named so far: Dr. Sylvain Roy for the Liberals, Denis Heng for the NDP and Dawn Gallagher Murphy for the Conservatives.
Elections Ontario has launched a new app to help citizens sort out voting information. Available on Android and IOS, the app offers a scannable version of your voter information card, customizable notifications, candidate lists and voting locations.
Essena said it “changes the paradigm of how we communicate with electors” and is their “first foray in the digital arena.”
When asked about security, he added that it has gone through extensive testing to keep voter information safe.
“We’re in a very solid position right now,” he said. “At the end of the day, we still vote paper here in Ontario … I want to ensure the confidence and the integrity of the service we provide.”
The organization is looking to hire more than 55,000 to work in paid positions for the upcoming election, including 600 in Newmarket-Aurora. He said some ridings were short-staffed during the federal election and they hope to get enough to help, whether for just a day or longer.
“It’s a day you’re serving your neighborhoods and colleagues in your community, ensuring they get the opportunity to vote in a safe, efficient process.”
This is the first provincial election since rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol to halt the election confirmation in January 2021. Essensa said elections officials are cognizant of what happens in neighbouring democracies and work with political parties to maintain trust in the system.
“We have a lot of checks and balances,” he said. “We’re very diligent in ensuring all the safeguards we need to put in place have been put in place, have been tested and continue to be monitored.”
Newmarket-Aurora had a 59 per cent voter turnout in 2018, slightly above the province’s 56.67 per cent and part of a provincial 20-year high in that department.
Essensa said with 10 advance voting days, mail-in and more, they hope to spur voting engagement.
“We have multiple channels of voting,” he said. “We encourage them to pick the one that’s most convenient for them.”
You can register to vote at elections.on.ca. You can also apply for a polling position through the site.