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Ontario acts to undo electoral apathy Add to ...

The Ontario government is moving to make it easier for people to vote in an effort to reverse the declining rate of electoral participation.

Democratic Renewal Minister Marie Bountrogianni will introduce legislation today that would extend voting time by one hour and more than double the number of days on which advance polls are open. The bill would also require voters to produce identification before casting a ballot.

If the bill passes, polls would open at 9 a.m. and close at 9 p.m.

Ms. Bountrogianni said many people vote after work and there has not been enough time, particularly for those commuting long distances, to get to the polling station before it closes. In addition, she said, many people are reluctant to use the provision in the current law that allows them to take a half day off work to vote.

The proposed legislation follows a report after the 2003 election in which Chief Election Officer John Hollins worried the decline in voter turnout was caused by "barriers" in election laws. In that contest, just 56.8 per cent of people on the permanent voters' list cast a ballot, compared with the postwar high of 73.5 per cent in 1971.

"The Elections Act reflects a view of Ontario and its electorate that is locked in time, representing the world of the late 1960s," he said.

In his report, Mr. Hollins suggested consideration be given to moving polling day to the weekend to help people with child-care concerns.

The provision to require identification is there because people arriving to vote have discovered that someone else has used their name to cast a ballot, the minister said.

The proposed legislation will also deal with suggestions for online voting and with complaints that the permanent voters' list is unreliable because it does not keep up with moves and deaths.

"It's a huge problem," said New Democratic Party Leader Howard Hampton.

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