Saturday, October 25, 2014

Returning office busy

With election day coming up June 12, the Elections Ontario returning office for the Kenora-Rainy River riding already is bustling with activity.
Returning officer Ian Simpson said staff at the returning office, which is located at 363 Church St. (the old public library), are busy right now revising the list of electors to make sure they have the right people at the right addresses.

This is in anticipation of Notice of Registration cards going out next week (May 27-30), with advance polls to be open there June 1-6.
“If people don’t get an NR card, or get an NR card with incorrect information, they should drop by and see us here at the returning office,” noted Simpson.
“We’re working hard to correct any mistakes in our list of electors≤” he stressed.
“We’ve already corrected, oh, probably a thousand,” he added. “We’re nearly done.
“We know that people move, that computers make errors, and people should feel free to come in here and talk to us,” Simpson said.
“And we will change the addresses so that on voting day, they can go to the right place.”
The local returning office employs 23 people, and Simpson is looking to hire another 10-15 in the next couple of weeks.
The returning office also has satellite offices in Kenora, Dryden, Red Lake, and Sioux Lookout.
Come voting day, between 600 and 700 people will be working for Elections Ontario across the riding.
The Elections Ontario office here is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sundays from noon-5 p.m.
Meanwhile, Simpson said Elections Ontario remains committed to making voting as easy as possible.
That includes providing the public with as many chances as possible to cast their ballot, as well as providing assistive voting technology to those who need it.
“We’re still trying to make voting easy,” Simpson remarked. “We want to make it accessible to all electors; we want to make the process as user-friendly as possible.
“We don’t want it to be a hardship to come in and vote,” he reiterated.
“We want to place our voting locations as strategically as possible to make it easy for the electors to get to.
“It’s not always possible to make it easy for all electors,” Simpson reasoned. “But we try to do our best to give easy access to as many electors as possible.”
He also said staff are working hard to be friendly and collaborative with the electors who are coming in the door.
“We want people to feel free and at ease to come in and ask questions,” he noted.
In addition to the advance poll, electors can vote by special ballot.
Special ballot voting is a process that provides eligible electors, who cannot or do not wish to vote at an advance poll or on polling day, with an opportunity to either vote in person at the returning office or vote by mail.
This is useful for voters who are out of town, out of Ontario, or even out of the country.
Special ballot applications can be picked up at the returning office or downloaded through the Elections Ontario website at www.wemakevotingeasy.ca
After they’re filled out, applications can be returned to the returning office by mail or dropped off there.
In addition to the advance poll at the returning office, there also will be advance polls running May 31-June 6 in Emo and Rainy River.
As well, blindness and other disabilities should not be a barrier to voting.
As such, all returning offices and satellite offices have assistive voting tools available that make it possible for anyone to vote by themselves, with privacy and dignity.
“We hope the voter turnout is increased,” Simpson said. “We are really looking to get a high percentage of voters attending our polls.
“That’s why we really want to make sure all questions are answered, and we want to make sure our polls are accessible and easily found,” he remarked.
Simpson also said Elections Ontario is working hard provincially and locally to maintain confidentiality and security of the information of electors.
“We are safeguarding the distribution of the list of electors, and working very hard to make sure it never gets into the wrong hands,” he stressed.
“Security is a big issue with us, and the integrity of the process is a very big issue with Elections Ontario and this office and our satellite offices,” he added.
“We’re going to follow the letter of the law.
“Every election is potentially a close election and we don’t want anything to jeopardize the votes cast by our electors,” Simpson vowed.

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