Home System list Stratford council hopes to point out serious concerns about the municipal voters list

Stratford council hopes to point out serious concerns about the municipal voters list


Stratford council candidate Ken Wood has a long list of issues he wants to address when campaigning for a town hall seat.

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Stratford council candidate Ken Wood has a long list of issues he wants to address when campaigning for a town hall seat.

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At the top of this list so far?

Well, it’s actually another list – the one that keeps track of the city’s eligible voters.

Gaps in the data used to create municipal voter rolls became a concern for Wood early in the campaign, his second in Stratford. An avid observer of council meetings from his home in one of the city’s new affordable housing buildings, Wood, 73, stumbled upon the problem when he visited voterlookup.ca to confirm he was on the list. .

To his surprise, Wood found no, and neither did his neighbors. The Britannia Street building opened in 2019, a year after the last municipal elections.

“I was shocked,” Wood said Friday. “I just had blind … faith that the voters list was accurate. I didn’t really understand how inaccurate that was until this election happened.

“I’m a senior, I have a low pension, I’ve been on ODSP, so I know what it’s like to live on low income,” Wood added. “This particular segment of the population tends to be vastly underrepresented among people who vote. There are many reasons for this, the main reason being the accuracy of the voting list.

Unlike the provincial and federal lists managed by Elections Ontario and Elections Canada, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation – the not-for-profit organization that assesses and classifies all properties in Ontario – is responsible for municipal voters lists before they are released. be handed over to local authorities. for final updates approximately two months before Election Day.

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MPAC keeps preliminary listings up to date through its property assessment database and self-reporting tools like voterlookup.ca, but critics have argued for years that landlord data is far more reliable. than tenant data.

The Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO) is among those advocating for change. In multiple statements on the conduct of municipal elections in the province, the group points out that the inaccuracy of voter lists has been a concern since at least 2012.

“The voters list in Ontario is plagued with inaccuracies and, despite previous promises of reform, has remained a thorn in the side of election administrators across the province and a constant source of frustration for voters,” reads a message on the AMCTO website. “Neither the use of new technology nor the willingness to explore new voting methods has changed the reality that every four years municipalities will receive a deeply flawed voters list.”

Carmelo Lipsi, MPAC’s chief operating officer, said his organization had tried to address the issue, first through mailings to landlords and tenants, then more recently through campaigns on social networks. One problem, Lipsi said, is that renters tend to move more often than landlords, and those address changes aren’t automatically recorded.

“When you own and move, we have all of that information provided to us at the time of registration,” he said. “Tenants don’t always think it’s something they really have to do. This is an area we spend time thinking about because we want to make sure the resources we make available to everyone are as easy and transparent as possible.

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Changes are on the horizon. Legislative changes passed in 2020 will create a single register of municipal voters managed by Elections Ontario, which already maintains a similar database for provincial elections.

“We are optimistic that with the Single Register of Electors, due in 2024, some of the concerns about accuracy, including tenant data, will be resolved and will be continuously improved over time,” a gatekeeper said. word of the AMCTO.

Stratford clerk Tatiana Dafoe said city officials expect to receive the city’s preliminary voters list on September 1. This is when local officials can begin accepting change requests if voters have not already submitted updated information to MPAC.

In the meantime, however, Wood worries that the extra steps many tenants will have to take to vote could create a barrier to democracy for a significant number of people.

“If you’re not on the list in the first place and you go to vote and you find that’s a problem…people walk away,” he said. “I think it’s an unintended consequence, (but the system) actually disenfranchises a lot of people.”

Nearly 11,700 people voted in Stratford’s last election, around 50% of those who were eligible. It’s unclear how many were tenants, but the Advocacy Center for Tenants Ontario estimates that more than 30% of residents in the province are now tenants, and that number is growing.

Wood would like to see landlords take some responsibility for making sure tenant information is correctly reflected on local voting rolls.

“In the private domain, owners have enough to do. They don’t have to,” he said. “It’s left to the people. That’s why I think you see a 50% turnout in municipal elections.

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