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Toronto mayoral candidates Olivia Chow (LEFT) and Doug Ford visited a Toronto Community Housing complex in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

With one week left in the race for mayor, all three of the leading candidates are working to translate support into votes at the ballot box after a record turnout at the city's advance polls.

At total of 161,147 Torontonians cast their votes last week, more than double the 77,391 who came out four years ago. City clerk Ulli Watkiss called the turnout "the highest advance vote since amalgamation."

The surge in voting comes as John Tory, Doug Ford and Olivia Chow make their final push for support before election day on Oct. 27. The city made changes so voting early would be more convenient, including putting advance polling stations in each of the city's 44 wards. One pollster also attributes the spike in voting to an anti-Ford sentiment that is making voters eager to cast their ballot.

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"Throwing out a government is a bigger motivator than keeping one in," Ipsos senior vice-president John Wright said. "This is a motivated group of people, especially in the downtown core, where the majority of voting came from. They're heading out to drive a stake through the heart of a particular name that they just don't want to associate with politics again."

Mr. Wright said his firm's polling numbers show more than two-thirds of respondents do not want to see another Ford in the mayor's office. "I suspect the people that have gone out to vote are voting against the Fords."

Mr. Ford, canvassing on Monday in Ward 8 near Jane and Finch – an area that did not have huge numbers in advance polling – said he prefers to think about connecting with voters.

"Just getting out and talking to the people," he said of his campaign's efforts. "Make sure they come out to vote." He declined to provide additional detail. "Can't give you any of our trade secrets," said Mr. Ford, who stepped in as a last-minute replacement for his ailing brother the mayor to ensure a Ford was in the race.

Ms. Chow, also in the North York neighbourhood on Monday, attributed some of the high voter turnout to the efforts of her campaign team, which had volunteers focusing on the advance polls.

"We did a lot of work. It was phenomenal," Ms. Chow said. "We were in every ward," she said, adding that her campaign also used Twitter and Facebook profiles to urge supporters to vote early.

"We told all the supporters and volunteers to come out and vote because we want them to volunteer on election day."

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Mr. Tory said his team focused on key areas to get out support in advance.

"We certainly worked at turning out votes in wards where we thought we had strength, and I think we were fairly successful in doing so," he said before a debate on Monday night.

Mr. Tory's campaign targeted 14 "priority wards" where he is polling at more than 50 per cent, distributing reminder cards to households with identified supporters urging them to vote, spokeswoman Amanda Galbraith said.

They also sent out a robo call on the first day of advance polls, she said.

Mr. Wright expects the high numbers in the advance polls will mean higher numbers on voting day as well.

A total of 1.6 million residents are on this year's voters list. The strong advance showing and the high-profile race for mayor have many expecting a big turnout next week. In 2010, the voter turnout was 50.5 per cent.

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The advance voting included some controversy, with the city clerk warning Mayor Rob Ford by letter over the weekend that campaigning is banned in poll locations.

Mr. Ford showed up at three polling stations last week and on the weekend, lingering to talk to voters and posing for pictures.

In the letter, the city clerk noted that she was informed that the mayor "spent considerable time at the facilities talking to voters even after voting place staff requested that [he] leave."

The mayor, who abandoned his bid for re-election after a tumour was discovered in his abdomen, is running for his former city council seat in Etobicoke. All three incidents at polling stations took place outside his ward.

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