Toronto still not offering online voting. Would it increase voter turnout?

Despite more municipalities jumping on board with online voting, Toronto is still holding out. Erica Natividad with what's behind the decision and whether the option could increase voter turnout.

By Michael Ranger and Erica Natividad

More and more municipalities are offering the option of online voting, but Toronto still has not adopted the method.

According to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the number of communities offering online voting this election has increased by 24 per cent since 2018.

Vaughan is one city giving online voting a try for the first time during its advance voting period. City Clerk Todd Coles calls it a secure and convenient way to cast a ballot.

“We have security measures built in to the internet voting platform that will identify irregularities,” says Coles.

Residents will get an assigned pin on their voter information card which they are then able to plug in on the city’s election website.


Toronto’s deputy city clerk Fiona Murray says city officials have deemed internet voting to not be a secure method at this point.

“We have chose not to use it for both security and accessibility reasons,” she says, adding they have not ruled out future use.

As for whether Vaughan expects a higher turnout because of online voting? Coles says only a slight increase is expected.

“Experience tells us that internet voting has a small impact on in terms of overall turnout,” Cole says. “The experience has been generally around 1 or 2 per cent increase in voter turnout. It was not a driving factor.”

John Beebe is the head of the Democratic Engagement Exchange at Toronto Metropolitan University and says voter turnout comes down to keeping resident engaged, and is less about convenience.

“What we know through our research is the reason participation rates aren’t higher is not because voting is difficult,” he says. “Let’s focus on the issue of engaging people with substantive conversations about the issues they care about.”

Beebe nots it only took an average of seven minutes to vote in the 2019 federal election and municipal elections are often quicker than that.

Advanced voter turnout down 30% since 2014

Despite giving residents more time to cast early ballots ahead of this year, the advanced voter turnout for Toronto’s municipal election is down nearly 7 per cent from 2018.

The city says 115,911 voters cast early ballots during the eight days of the advanced voting period that ended on Friday.

The numbers are down even more significantly, nearly 30 per cent, from 2014 where more than 160,000 people voted early. Just over 124,000 people voted early in the 2018 municipal vote.

The advanced voting period opened on Oct. 7 and lasted until Oct. 14. The city kept the period open for an additional three days this year to include the Thanksgiving long weekend.

Polls will open again on election day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at nearly 1,500 polling locations.

Voters are encouraged to use the MyVote app to find their ward and learn where they can vote.

In 2014, Toronto’s total voter turnout was at 60 per cent before a significant drop to 41 per cent in 2018.

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