ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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RECAP OF PROGRESS TO DATE IN OUR CAMPAIGN FOR FULLY ACCESSIBLE ELECTIONS IN ONTARIO –AND MORE ON OPTIONS FOR ACCESSIBLE VOTING TECHNOLOGY –AND OUR RECENT EXCHANGES WITH ELECTIONS ONTARIO AND THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT ON ELECTIONS ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES

April 11, 2010

SUMMARY

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 is fast approaching. That is when the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly will debate and vote on amendments to strengthen Bill 231. We are still waiting for each political party to make public the amendments they will propose for debate on that important day.

This crucial date in the Ontario Legislature will be exactly 11 years to the day since April 14, 1999, when our predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee held its very first news conference at Queen’s Park, to call for fully accessible elections. The news release, announcing that news conference first invoked issues that should now sound very familiar. It began:

“On Wednesday, April 14, 1999 at 11 a.m., the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee will hold a news conference at the Queen's Park Media Studio to unveil its barrier-free election drive. "For the first time in Ontario you will see voters with disabilities from one end of the province to the other actively organizing as active players in the next provincial election," says David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan ODA Committee.

"Our first goal is to ensure that one and a half million Ontarians with disabilities have a barrier-free election for the first time, so that every person with a disability can fully participate in every aspect of the election, during the campaign and at the polling stations. In the past, voters with disabilities have faced far too many barriers when trying to participate in election campaign events or trying to exercise the democratic right to vote. These include barriers in transportation to the polls, all-candidates' debates in inaccessible locations, ballots that are not designed to be easy to mark, or campaign literature that is not available in Braille, just to name a few."

The ODA Committee has written the three party leaders and the Chief Elections Officer, calling on them to commit to a barrier-free election, and listing concrete steps to achieve this.

See the April 13, 1999 news release by clicking here: http://www.odacommittee.net/press24.html

It’s time for a recap of recent events in our campaign for fully accessible elections. We also want to give you more background information about our efforts on this important issue. We here offer information on other options for accessible voting technology that others have tried, and that Bill 231 would forbid. We also share a series of recent exchanges between the AODA Alliance, Elections Ontario, and in one case, the Minister responsible for the AODA, on the issue of accessible elections.

Bill 231 is a proposed law, now before the Ontario Legislature, which the McGuinty Government has put forward. It is supposed to modernize elections in Ontario, including providing for accessible elections for voters and candidates with disabilities.

Why are we focusing so much attention now on the issue of accessible elections? There is an additional reason beyond the fact that the right to vote is so important in any democracy. The right to fully participate in our democratic process is absolutely essential to our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario for all persons with disabilities. We need provincial and municipal politicians to always take our issues seriously. They need to know that we too have votes that count! Over one and a half million Ontarians with disabilities is an important voting population that no politician can ignore. However, if we cannot get full and equal access to the vote, our full political voice will be less effective.

Our campaign for fully accessible elections is a non-partisan one. Each person with a disability should be free to vote for whichever candidate and party he or she prefers.

We have recently been providing more than the usual number of AODA updates, and will be doing so over the next short while. We believe our supporters should have access to as much information as we can provide about our efforts on this and other accessibility issues. Some will only want to read our summaries at the start of each update. Some may only read our updates’ headlines. Others report to us that they appreciate reading all the detailed background information we provide after our updates’ summary. We give you all the information, and let you choose how much you want to read.

1. WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED SO FAR ON BILL 231 – A RECAP

In the 2007 election, we won election commitments for the first time from all three political parties to develop an accessible elections action plan. For more, click here:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10012007.asp

In recent weeks, Ontarians with disabilities have seen our 11-year long efforts at achieving accessible elections in Ontario reach a peak of activity, surrounding Bill 231. We now await word this week on what amendments the three political parties will present to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly on April 14, 2010 to strengthen Bill 231 for persons with disabilities. We will make public the amendments that any of the political parties propose.

Meanwhile, we can be proud of what we have achieved so far:

In the rest of this update, we alert you to two other important things that are going on as these events have been unfolding.

2. OUR QUEST FOR MORE AFFORDABLE AND EASY-TO-USE ACCESSIBLE VOTING TECHNOLOGY

We have no indication that when the Ontario Government was developing Bill 231 last fall, it undertook a thorough investigation of different options for accessible voting technologies that could ensure that voters with disabilities can mark their own vote independently and in private, and can independently verify their choice. The only option that the Ontario Government is now seriously considering is the option Elections Ontario brought forward - an $11,000 accessible voting machine. From the remarks of the Liberal Government’s Chair of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Elections, Greg Sorbara, during the March 31, 2010 Standing Committee hearings on Bill 231, it is obvious that the Government has no intention of spending the millions of dollars it would cost to put that machine in every polling station across Ontario. To see his remarks, click here:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/04082010.asp

With minimal effort of our own this past week, we were able to locate one organization in the U.S. that has potentially cheaper accessible voting technology options. These options would be attractive to more voters, including people with out disabilities, including voting over the phone (like telephone banking) and voting over the internet.

We have alerted all three parties of the options available from the organization called “Everyone Counts.” That organization has experience with developing accessible options for voters with disabilities. In presenting this option, we do not endorse or vouch for any specific company. We have not ourselves tested the options available through the Everyone Counts organization. You can click here to see what they say about their options:
http://www.everyonecounts.com

As we pointed out in our March 31, 2010 Standing Committee presentation, Bill 231 would forbid such options because they are connected to a network. If all voters, including those without disabilities, had the option of voting over the phone or over the internet, this would likely increase the voter turnout on election day. It would be attractive to many because it is far more convenient than lining up at a polling station. If we can vote over the internet, persons with disabilities who have internet access can use the adaptive technology of their choice when voting, at no added cost to the taxpayer for that adaptive technology.

Below we set out three articles about technology options available through the Everyone Counts organization that were available on the internet. The first is an article that was written about the project involving the Everyone Counts organization that was in the local newspaper in Washington State. The second is an article regarding the 2009 project involving the Everyone Counts organization in Honolulu, Hawaii, that offered voting by internet and telephone. The third is a web posting regarding the 2007 project by the Everyone Counts organization in Swindon, England, that offered voting by telephone, internet and at the polling stations. We have not ourselves verified that information.

Over the past two years, we have been asking the Ontario Government to investigate options for addressing the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities in elections. Elections Ontario has demonstrated only one voting machine to us. It may be the most expensive option. We have no indication of what other options, if any, the Government or Elections Ontario have tested.

We have confirmed from Elections Ontario that of the reported price of $11,000 per accessible voting machine, $6,000 relates to vote-counting technology. $5,000 relates to the cost of the accessible voting technology. See the April 7, 2010 email to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky from the Chief Electoral Officer’s Executive Assistant Rosanne Waters, set out at the end of this update.

We do not know if the accessible voting machine can be acquired without the costly addition of the automated vote-counting technology. As far as we can tell, the costly automated vote-counting technology should not be needed for this machine to enable voters with disabilities to vote accessibly. If the accessible voting machine could be acquired without having to spend the $6,000 per machine for the unnecessary automatic vote-counting feature, then the $11,000 cost per machine that the Government and Elections Ontario has been bandying about is a gross over-inflation of the cost of this accommodation for voters with disabilities.

During the March 31, 2010 Standing Committee public hearings, Liberal MPP Greg Sorbara referred to the cost of this machine, plus related training as $15,000. In earlier proceedings in the Legislature, the machine itself was described as costing $11,000. We have no idea why it would take $4,000 per machine to do training on this machine. If the training is that involved, we question whether voters with disabilities will find it sufficiently user-friendly on voting day, when they try it for the first time.

We also do not know if that $4,000 training figure concerns training only for the accessibility features, or also training for the unnecessary vote-counting feature. If it includes training for the unnecessary vote-counting feature too, then this $4,000 training cost would be over-inflated, as a price for meeting the needs of voters with disabilities.

3. OUR EFFORTS AT GETTING INFORMATION FROM ELECTIONS ONTARIO BETWEEN FEBRUARY 9 AND APRIL 7, 2010

The Chief Electoral Officer has told the Legislature about the importance of Elections Ontario being accountable. We leave it to you to assess from the following correspondence how much Elections Ontario puts that into action.

During our campaign over the past weeks to get Bill 231 strengthened, we have had an ongoing exchange with Elections Ontario concerning the barriers in the February 4, 2010 Toronto Centre by-election. That exchange began with correspondence we have earlier made public, which you can see by clicking:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02052010.asp

and
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02082010.asp

We here make public the key correspondence with Elections Ontario since then, as well as a letter received on the topic of elections accessibility from Madeleine Meilleur, the McGuinty Government’s minister designated to be the lead voice on elections accessibility (about 20 pages).

Here is a short summary of this unfolding saga:


ARTICLES ON THE INTERNET ON VOTING TECHNOLOGY AVAILABLE FROM THE “EVERYONE COUNTS” ORGANIZATION

October 15, 2009 posted to URL: http://www.everyonecounts.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,print,0&cntnt01articleid=65&cntnt01showtemplate=false&cntnt01returnid=95Categories: WhatsNew

Date: Oct 15, 2009

Title: County Auditor says Everyone Counts’ Voting System Increases Access, Reduces Cost and Prevents Errors

thenewstribune.com

Photo: Diana Garza Killian, Franklin County elections administrator, sits near a computer monitor showing a sample screen for an online voting pilot project they will use for the first time in November. Voters will mark ballots electronically, print them out and then submit them in the traditional manner. Officials say it’s a first step toward online voting.

Online voting makes progress in Franklin County
BY MICHELLE DUPLER, HERALD STAFF WRITER

Franklin County voters have an opportunity to try out a new online voting system in the Nov. 3 general election.

The system allows registered voters to log in using a code provided by the county Auditor's Office and fill out their ballot using a web-integrated form, then print it out and mail it in to be counted.

Washington state law doesn't allow votes to be submitted online, but Franklin County Auditor Zona Lenhart is hoping this test project will show the Legislature that web-based voting might be a good option for Washington's military and disabled voters.

"The idea of online voting is to remove barriers for people," Lenhart said.

She also thinks it could reduce the cost of elections, since the biggest cost comes from printing ballots and secrecy envelopes.

Lenhart said paper ballots and envelopes still will be mailed to each voter, whether or not they opt to use the online system, because state law requires a paper ballot. But she hopes many voters will instead opt to try the online ballot because it will be easy to use and less prone to errors such as double-voting.

Stephen R. Daniels, vice president of U.S. Sales for Everyone Counts, said the system his company developed for Franklin County is user-friendly and secure, with no individual's personal information connected to his or her vote.

Each precinct is issued a code, which is provided to all registered voters in that precinct. Logging in with the code allows voters to pull up a ballot that includes only the races in their precinct.

After marking their choices, they must print the ballot and mail it by the election deadline. They also can print a security envelope, which must be sealed and signed just like those elections staff will mail to each voter.

The system allows voters to click a link to get more information and watch a video about the candidate before casting a vote. It also allows them to go back and change a vote cast by mistake and print a corrected ballot before mailing.

Daniels said the system is designed to integrate with technology for people who are visually impaired so the online ballot can be read to them.

As someone who has only worked with elections systems for the past year, Daniels said he hadn't thought much in the past about the voting obstacles some people face.

"I thought you go to the polling place or you get an absentee ballot," he said. "It's not that simple if you're overseas. It's not that simple if you don't have eyes or if you don't have hands."

Lenhart said she expects disability -- especially vision impairment -- to be an increasing problem for voters as the population ages.

She also sees a younger generation that wants constant connection to the internet through devices such as smart phones, and thinks they'll be more likely to vote if they can do it online.

"This generation is wanting everything instantly," she said. "This is the same generation that is

not voting now."

Lenhart hopes the project will show lawmakers that online voting is the wave of the future, and

that they'll change the law that requires paper ballots.

She also hopes to see a statewide pilot project to extend online voting to military voters next

year.

Franklin County first tried the online system in the August primary and had 67 voters participate. Lenhart hopes to increase that number for the general election in November.

The system at www.franklinvote.com will be available from 8 a.m. Wednesday through 8 p.m.

election day.

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com


May 24 2009 posted to URL: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/05/24/honolulu-hosts-nations-digital-election/

Foxnews.com
Fair and Balanced
America's Election H.Q.

Politics

Honolulu Hosts Nation's First All-Digital Election

AP

City officials say the experiment, in which voters cast their ballots online, appears to have generated few problems; it has even saved the financially strapped city around $100,000.

HONOLULU -- Voting used to be a community affair, conducted with paper ballots at schools, churches and other public venues. Then the electronic age arrived and voting moved to computer touch screens at the usual polling places.

Now Honolulu has just taken its first tentative steps in transforming voting into a home activity.

Friday marked the last day of Web-based voting for neighborhood advisory board seats in what is being touted as the nation's first all-digital election.

City officials say the experiment appears to have generated few problems; it has even saved the financially strapped city around $100,000.

"It is kind of the wave of the future ... so we're kind of glad in a way that we got to be the ones who initiated it," said Bryan Mick, a community relations specialist with the city Neighborhood Commission.

Web voting will make it easier for civilian and military voters who live overseas or those who just don't have time in their busy days to visit a polling place, said Lori Steele, head of Everyone Counts, the San Diego, Calif.-based firm chosen by the commission to run the election.

"There are vast numbers of voters that really struggle with the current processes of voting," she said.

However, Web voting cannot be used in city council or state elections because state law bars voting systems that do not include a vote verification process, said Warren Stewart, legislative policy director for Verified Voting Foundation, a nonpartisan advocacy group.

The commission's move to digital voting was dictated more by a lack of money than a strong desire to use the Internet in new ways.

For at least two decades, the agency conducted mail-only voting, paying the postage to send the ballots to voters and to get them back. In a moneysaving effort two years ago, the commission gave voters the option of choosing candidates by mail or through the Web, but most voters chose mail ballots, Mick said.

Then the Honolulu City Council cut the Neighborhood Commission's election budget from $220,000 to $180,000. That prompted the agency to shift to all-digital voting for this year's races. Preliminary calculations show Web voting may cost only $80,000, Mick said.

Before the first day of balloting May 6, voters living in 22 neighborhood board districts with contested races received a passcode that, along with the last four digits of their Social Security number, gave them access to an election Web site created by Everyone Counts.

Voting also was conducted by phone, with results electronically fed into the same computer system that collected the Web votes. The balloting ended at midnight Friday, and results should be ready Tuesday, Mick said.

Electronic voting systems, such as touch-screen machines at polling places, were once considered the answer to hanging chads and fouled paper ballots but have since been loudly criticized for lacking adequate protections and reliable verification procedures.

Internet voting differs in that voting can be done from home or the office. Steele noted the computer codes in her firm's system are available for auditing, and that each completed ballot is heavily encrypted, as is the overall system. The process is more secure than that used in Internet banking, she added.

Four people selected by the Neighborhood Commission hold passwords to access the decryption keys, and at least three of them must be present to obtain the keys.

"The ability to get into the system and change even one vote is nearly impossible," Steele contended. "Certainly, if it took a room full of computer scientists and PhDs weeks and weeks, it would only be one vote that they finally got into. By then, the election would be over."

Everyone Counts has used the system for numerous private and foreign elections, such as the presidential primary held last year by Democrats Abroad, an arm of the Democratic Party that represents overseas voters.

Still, using the Internet as a voting medium introduces risks, Stewart said.

For example, he said, when a person buys merchandise on the Web, the transaction is linked to that customer. But secret ballot requirements prohibit anything that links votes with a particular voter.

And unlike traditional paper ballots, Web voting produces no paper record that can verify voter selections without identifying the voter, Stewart added.

"Elections, the foundations of our democracy, are actually currently not at risk of cybercrimes, cyberthreats," he said. "Why would we want to take it there for just some kind of convenience?"

Roy G. Saltman, a consultant on election policy and technology, said that since Honolulu's neighborhood board elections are relatively less important than statewide or national elections, cheating is less likely.

"You're dealing with a very small application with low consequences," said Saltman, author of "The History and Politics of Voting Technology: In Quest of Integrity and Public Confidence." "So the risk (of fraud) is probably quite small."


Undated posting to URL: http://www.everyonecounts.com/index.php/swindon_election

The industry's most secure ballot delivery and voting system.

EVERYONE COUNTS WORKS WITH INNOVATIVE LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO INITIATE WORLD’S FIRST ‘VOTE ANYWHERE’ MULTI-CHANNEL ELECTION

Accessibility, Service Levels and Voter Turnout Enhanced When Secure, Verifiable Internet & Telephone Voting Are Offered In Addition to Traditional Polling Options

In an extraordinary effort to deliver the most elaborate electoral modernization pilot in history, United Kingdom local elections authority Swindon Borough Council worked with the world's most experienced provider of secured online elections -- U.S.-based Everyone Counts -- to provide the first "Vote Anywhere" multichannel Internet election in the world.

Former U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Chairman and international elections expert Paul DeGregorio, who observed the e-voting in Swindon, England, said, "This was an election of historic proportions. Never before have voters been given so many choices to cast their ballots. Internet voting was a clear success; I applaud Everyone Counts for developing a system that is secure, trustworthy and voter-friendly."

In the historic election, which took place over an 8 day period earlier this month, Everyone Counts enabled Swindon voters to cast their ballots securely and successfully any time, anywhere via more options than ever before: on the Internet, by telephone, at previously-sanctioned early voting sites throughout the borough and in traditional and electronic Election Day polling stations.

Everyone Counts securely administered the historic election under intense scrutiny that resulted in an increase in voter turnout over previous elections.

"This was an exciting challenge which, despite extraordinary time pressures, was delivered on time to enable our electors to vote when and where they wanted. Many thousands of voters chose to take advantage of the opportunity and try out the new technology, said Swindon Deputy Returning Officer Alan Winchcombe. “We attracted over 4,500 extra voters compared to last year and got voting numbers up to the level of 15 years ago, reversing the trend of falling voter numbers in recent years," he said.

More than 48,000 individuals participated in the election, part of the U.K. Dept. of Constitutional Affairs’ broad-brush effort to increase voter security and confidence in elections in the United Kingdom.

A variety of innovations ensuring security, accessibility and auditability were tested simultaneously in the pilot, including the assurance of uncompromising standards for election security. Amidst intense observation and skepticism, the critical components of the election were delivered problem-free, setting a standard for future national and international rollouts.

At the close of elections, Swindon’s Alan Winchcombe received the auditable fullyencrypted, electronically-cast votes, which came to 24% of the total votes collected. The Everyone Counts technology supporting the election, eLect, allowed Mr. Winchcombe to decrypt and count the protected votes, integrating them with paper votes and ensuring that every vote equally counts.

Aside from traditional Election Day poll station voting, where electors could cast their paper and pencil ballots by making a trip to their designated polling stations, voters were given the opportunity to vote the week prior to Election Day in one of three ways:

First, for the seven days prior to traditional polling, Everyone Counts' innovative patentpending live voter register allowed voters to be checked in to vote by trained poll workers in libraries throughout the borough where secured Internet access had been established. Citizens could then vote privately over the Internet on secured PCs. This helped Swindon in their efforts to bridge the digital divide by allowing voters of all socioeconomic backgrounds (and geographic locations) to enjoy the convenience and efficiencies of voting by Internet.

To expand access to this borough’s diverse population, while ensuring little room for ballot misinterpretation due to language barriers, the election was presented in the Borough’s four most common languages: English, Bengali, Portuguese and Konkani. Everyone Counts' system runs elections in any language in the world.

Finally, to increase access for those unable to make it to the polls on election day, voters who pre-registered (much like those who choose to vote by mail) could vote remotely by either Internet or telephone from anywhere in the world. This benefits people with disabilities, enabling them to vote independently and securely from home, as well as travelers, the infirm and the elderly. This is the first time in history that remote voting was available through the end of traditional polling.

In addition, the "Vote Anywhere" model deployed in libraries for early voters was expanded to 64 traditional polling stations on Election Day. This allowed people to vote at any poll station in Swindon, rather than limiting them to their designated polling station - offering additional options - and access - for potential voters.

Everyone Counts helped election officials ensure a fraud-proof election by providing continually-updated, secure on-line poll lists that verify proper ballot assignments and prevent double voting. To increase voter confidence, Everyone Counts provided each on-line voter the ability to ensure that his or her ballot was counted -- and unmodified.

Everyone Counts is the only U.S.-based election technology to meet the rigorous testingstandards required to be selected for the Department of Constitutional Affairs’ framework of eVoting providers for not just one, but two of the six consortia chosen to provide electoral modernization projects over the coming four years. Tata Consultancy Services led the Swindon Consortium. "The ability to ensure that people can vote securely anywhere, anytime is an important step toward making the voice of each person living in a democratic society around the world heard," said Lori Steele, CEO at Everyone Counts.

Everyone Counts is committed to providing secure multiple voting channel support for elections.

Our People

Everyone Counts is a trusted partner. We listen to what you want and need from your voting system.

News

We lead the elections industry with a decade of firsts. Read for yourself how we set the bar high.
contact@everyonecounts.com
Phone: 858.427.4673
Toll Free: 866.843.4668
Fax: 858.876.1606

Copyright © 2010 Everyone Counts, Inc. – All Rights Reserved.


CHAIN OF KEY AODA ALLIANCE CORRESPONDENCE ON ACCESSIBLE ELECTIONS SINCE FEBRUARY 9, 2010

1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

February 9, 2010

Mr. Greg Essensa, Chief Electoral Officer
Elections Ontario
51 Rolark Drive
Scarborough, Ontario
M1R 3B1
facsimile (416) 326-6200
email greg.essensa@elections.on.ca

Dear Sir,

Re: Accessibility of the February 4, 2010 By-Election to Voters with Disabilities

We received a February 8, 2010 email, set out below, from the NDP candidate in the February 4, 2010 Toronto area by-election. It describes information about other accessibility problems in that by-election, beyond the incident that the Toronto Sun has covered to date. It states:

“Hello, my name is Cathy Crowe. I was the NDP candidate in the Toronto Centre by-election Feb. 4. Prior to E-Day I held a press conference in St. Jamestown pointing out that 3 polling locations for 9,000 voters was not acceptable. On E-Day itself I personally visited 15 polling locations and discovered further impediments for voters. I was shocked to discover that one-third of the sites I visited were not fully accessible.

They were:

1) St. Simon's, 525 Bloor St. East. This location was only visibly and truly accessible from Bloor Street where you would have to walk in or be driven as it is elevated from street level. Here I witnessed several people lifting a person in a non-motorized wheelchair up steps on the north side. This voter had approached the polling station from the St. Jamestown community of the south. On the south site, on Howard Street there was another entrance to St. Simon's but no access from the street as curbs were not accessible. Inside the church voting was in the basement. There was an elevator.

2) Rose Avenue School, 675 Ontario St. Access to the gymnasium polling station was by a downward ramp on the north side. There were patches of ice. It was difficult to find the entrance to the polling station. Upon entry the inner doors were blocked by hoola hoops that had fallen on the ground. Only one of the two inner doors was open. I asked a DRO staff to clear the area to improve access.

3) Wellesley Community Centre, 495 Sherbourne St. There are stairs to this main floor gym polling station. Other flat access is far to the rear, involving a long hike around to north entrance to gym. I did not see signage to demonstrate this access.

4) St. Martin's Public School, 55 Salisury. Steps to front entrance. DRO and Security Guard were not able to show me better access - then suggested it was to north and rear of school through parking lot. No signage to this effect.

5) St. Joseph's College School - basement site. Many stairs. Basement was about 40 degrees Celsius. Workers there were impacted by heat. I was unable to find better access. This is the site the SUN reported on.

I did take some pictures of several of the sites but my camera disappeared. They could be easily duplicated.

I will certainly follow-up as you have suggested.

Cathy Crowe”

We write to ask what Elections Ontario’s position is regarding the specific information set out in that email. We would appreciate hearing back from you as soon as possible on this important issue.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont, Chair AODA Alliance

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier, fax 416-325-9895, email dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Madeleine Meilleur, Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-3347, email madeleine.meilleur@ontario.ca
James Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, email jbradley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-5240, email marg.rappolt@ontario.ca
Chris Bentley, Attorney General, fax (416) 326-4007, email cbentley.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections, fax (416) 212-1025, email gsorbara.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate, fax (416) 325-9620, email Ellen.Waxman@ontario.ca
Fareed Amin, Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing, fax (416) 585-7211, email Fareed.Amin@ontario.ca
Ernie Bartucci, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health, Social, Environmental & National Institutions, fax (416) 325-4788, email ernie.bartucci@ontario.ca
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy, fax (416) 325-4773, email tim.lewis@ontario.ca
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition, fax (416) 325-0491, email olo@pc.ola.org
Andrea Horwath, Third Party Leader, fax (416) 325-8222, email ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

February 12, 2010 Email from David Lepofsky to Greg Essensa:

Sir,

Thank you for having your assistant call me this morning to see what my call to you yesterday was about. As I explained to her, we are eager to hear back from Elections Ontario on our recent correspondence, and first of all, about the added issues regarding the February 4, 2010 by-election that I wrote you about on February 9, 2010. I appreciate your assistant advising that you would be responding to that letter. She was not able to let me know when we would hear back about that. I asked her to let us know when we would be able to expect a reply.

I also attach an announcement we have distributed on this issue more generally.

Looking forward to hearing from you on this.

Office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario

February 19, 2010

David Lepofsky, Chair AODA Alliance
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8

Dear David:

Thank you for your letters sent February 8 and February 9, 2010.

In follow-up to my letter of February 5, 2010 I’m writing today with respect to the February 4, 2010 story titled “Man in wheelchair has trouble voting in Toronto Centre by-election”.

The voting location was selected for being accessible but at the last minute the school moved the room in which the polls were stationed. Elections Ontario was advised the room was accessible. However, the morning of the election our workers found this not to be the case and then made other appropriate accommodations for electors with limited mobility. Had this change been known earlier, we could have done more to assist electors on polling day.

We are reviewing the matters you have raised in your letters to determine how we can better serve electors.

We look forward to working with organizations such as yours. We are going to be conducting consultations in the next few months with organizations representing all communities in Ontario to enhance our programs and services.

Regards,

Greg Essensa
Chief Electoral Officer

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community & Social Services
Hon. James Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Hon. Chris Bentley, Attorney General
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections
Tim Hudak, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Andrea Horwath, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate
Fareed Amin, Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing
Ernie Bartucci, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health, Social, Environmental & National Institutions
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy

Ministry of Community and Social Services
Minister’s Office
Hepburn Block
Queen’s Park
Toronto ON M7A 1E9
Tel.: (416) 325-5225
Fax: (416) 325-3347

March 1, 2010

Mr. David Lepofsky
Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your letter regarding accessible elections. I appreciate the time you have taken to write about this important issue. As the Minister responsible for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA), I am committed to improving the lives and participation of people with disabilities in Ontario. I can assure you that my Minister colleagues share this commitment, specifically in the area of increasing opportunity for Ontarians to participate in the democratic process.

As you are aware, the final proposed Information and Communications Standard under the AODA contains requirements for ensuring that all verbal, written and electronic information is provided in accessible formats.

But we are not just waiting for the standard to become law. Further to the information that the former Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing provided in his January 5, 2010, letter, I would like to update you on what my ministry is doing.

Through our EnAbling Change Partnership Program, we work with organizations to help develop educational tools that will be used in businesses, universities, colleges, hospitals and other sectors across Ontario. As part of this partnership, the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO) is currently developing resources in order to help make municipal elections more accessible to people with disabilities.

AMCTO is developing and distributing three accessible elections guides specifically designed for key stakeholders in municipal elections:

By pooling expertise and best practices, we will create a number of tools that everyone can use in communities across Ontario.

Our government is also strengthening accessibility requirements in the Municipal Elections Act through Bill 212, and in the Election Act through Bill 231, both of which aim to improve the voting process and make it more accessible.

Additionally, my ministry’s Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has worked with the Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Canadian Hearing Society and the Ontario March of Dimes in order to develop pocket guides to accessibility for provincial elections. Three guides were developed:

While we continue to make significant progress in breaking down barriers for people with disabilities in the area of elections, I know our work is not yet finished. I will continue to work with my colleagues the Honourable Chris Bentley, Attorney General, and the Honourable Jim Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, on an action plan to make sure everyone has a chance to participate in the electoral process.

Once again, thank you for writing and for your commitment to accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

Sincerely,

Madeleine Meilleur
Minister

c: Premier Dalton McGuinty
The Honourable Jim Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
The Honourable Chris Bentley, Attorney General
Mr. Greg Sorbara, MPP and Chair, Select Committee on Elections

Greg Essensa March 4 2010 email to David Lepofsky

Hi David,

I just got your message. We’re in the middle of two by-elections today. My office will be contacting you shortly to set up meeting dates for the consultations I mentioned in my last letter.

Yours truly,

Greg

March 4, 2010 Email from David Lepofsky to Greg Essensa

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your email. In advance of any scheduled meeting, I am eager to speak to you on the phone as soon as possible. I want to address matters that we raised in our February 8 and 9, 2010 letters to you, and that your responses to date have not answered.

Most immediately, we are very eager to know what your position is regarding the accessibility problems which candidate Cathy Crowe reported to us, and which I forwarded to you in writing on February 9, 2010. To date, we have received no response from Elections Ontario on whether you dispute the accuracy of those reports of accessibility problems.

When we spoke by phone on February 5, 2010, you were able to quickly verify the report of an inaccessible polling station that had been described in an article in the Toronto Sun that very morning. With almost a month since I wrote you about these added concerns voiced by Ms. Crowe, there has been ample time to look into these.

When you met with us on January 26, 2010, you indicated your strong commitment to make elections in Ontario fully accessible to persons with disabilities, and stated that this was a high priority for you. Given that, and given that Bill 231 is now before the Legislature addressing this very topic, we hope and trust that you have had the issues that Ms. Crowe raised investigated by now.

I have twice conveyed to your executive assistant our desire to get Elections Ontario’s response to Ms. Crowe’s concerns, once before you wrote us on February 19, 2010, and again this afternoon on the phone.

Please let me know when we might be able to speak on the phone.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to working with you on these issues.

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

March 12, 2010

Mr. Greg Essensa, Chief Electoral Officer
Elections Ontario
51 Rolark Drive
Scarborough, Ontario
M1R 3B1
facsimile (416) 326-6200
email greg.essensa@elections.on.ca

Dear Mr. Essensa,

Re: Ensuring Fully Accessible Elections for Voters and Candidates with Disabilities

As you know, Bill 231, the proposed new Ontario elections reform legislation, will be the subject of public hearings on March 24 and 31, 2010. We wish to raise with you three important matters in preparation for those rapidly-approaching public hearings.

First, earlier this year, you voiced a desire to work with us on proposals regarding that legislation, with a view to seeing if we can develop joint proposals for amendments. We are eager to have those discussions as soon as possible, since the public hearings start in under two weeks.

Second, in preparation for our written submissions to the Legislature’s Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly on Bill 231, we are very interested in obtaining from you in an accessible format, the individual reports that each Returning Officer in each riding across Ontario filed for the 2007 election and any subsequent by-election, with the Chief Electoral Officer under section 55.1 of the Election Act, on steps each Returning Officer took in the last election and each by-election to ensure the accessibility of the election process. Section 55.1 states:

“55.1 (1) Within three months after polling day in the election, every returning officer for an electoral district shall prepare a report on the measures that the officer has taken to provide accessibility for electors with disabilities in the district and shall submit the report to the Chief Electoral Officer.

Availability to the public

(2) The Chief Electoral Officer shall make the report available to the public.”

We already have the overall report which Elections Ontario made public on its website about the efforts of Elections Ontario as a whole in the 2007 election. What we here seek are all of the individual reports from each Returning Officer. We want to see what each returning officer individually said about the efforts they made. We expect that the Standing Committee would also be interested in this information.

Third, we ask you to please answer our specific inquiries, first submitted to you back on February 9, 2010, on Elections Ontario’s response to the information from candidate Cathy Crowe in the February 4, 2010 Toronto Centre by-election, that there were more accessibility problems at polling stations than those reported in the February 5, 2010 Toronto sun. You have not provided any substantive response to that inquiry. Since we first wrote you about it on February 9, 2010, I have attempted to reach you twice by phone to discuss it. I have also reiterated to your executive assistant our desire to get your response to these concerns in two separate phone discussions with her. We have also repeated this request to you in emails to you dated February 12 and March 4, 2010. I repeat what I said in the latter email:

“When we spoke by phone on February 5, 2010, you were able to quickly verify the report of an inaccessible polling station that had been described in an article in the Toronto Sun that very morning. With almost a month since I wrote you about these added concerns voiced by Ms. Crowe, there has been ample time to look into these.

When you met with us on January 26, 2010, you indicated your strong commitment to make elections in Ontario fully accessible to persons with disabilities, and stated that this was a high priority for you. Given that, and given that Bill 231 is now before the Legislature addressing this very topic, we hope and trust that you have had the issues that Ms. Crowe raised investigated by now.”

We anticipate that the Standing Committee will also be interested in Elections Ontario’s response to the concerns about accessibility problems at additional polling locations in the February 4, 2010 by-election that Ms. Crowe has raise. Ms. Crowe has given us photographs taken the week after the by-election, showing some of the accessibility problems she reported. We want to have an opportunity to review these with you and to get your views on what happened.

We look forward to hearing from you on these important matters.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky
Chair

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier, fax 416-325-9895, email mcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Madeleine Meilleur, Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-3347, email madeleine.meilleur@ontario.ca
James Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services, fax (416) 325-5240, email mailto:marg.rappolt@ontario.ca
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections, fax (416) 212-1025, email gsorbara.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate, fax (416) 325-9620, email Ellen.Waxman@ontario.ca
Dana Richardson, Interim Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing, fax (416) 585-7211, email dana.richardson@ontario.ca
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy, fax (416) 325-4773, email tim.lewis@ontario.ca
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition, fax (416) 325-0491, email tim.hudak.co@pc.ola.org
Andrea Horwath, Third Party Leader, fax (416) 325-8222, email mailto:ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca

March 15, 2010 Email to David Lepofsky from Rosanne Waters, Executive Assistant to Greg Essensa

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

I would like to follow-up on my email confirming receipt of your letter dated March 12, 2010.

The Chief Electoral Officer is happy to provide you with copies of the reports required by s. 55.1 of the Election Act, which you have requested, and will be replying to your letter shortly.

We are locating the reports in our files. Some of the report forms were typed and some of the report forms were hand-written. If you could advise us what format you would prefer to receive copies in, that would be most appreciated.

Yours truly,

Rosanne Waters

March 18, 2010

Mr. David Lepofsky, Chair AODA Alliance
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

Thank you for your letter dated March 12, 2010.

I will be appearing before the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly on March 24, 2010 to make my submission regarding Bill 231.

I am an independent Officer of the Legislative Assembly, and as I know you will appreciate, I must be non-partisan and make my submissions independently. I understand that you plan to make submissions to the committee regarding Bill 231 and I look forward to reading them. However, you have asked me to make joint representations with your organization and I cannot do so as that would not be in keeping with the independence of my office.

We are in the process, as you know from the correspondence you have received from my executive assistant, of supplying you with the accessibility reports made under s. 55.1 of the Election Act in respect of the 2007 General Election.

We have also reviewed the statements in the letter Ms. Crowe, a candidate in the February 4, 2010 by-election in Toronto-Centre, sent to you after polling day. Ms. Crowe identified shortcomings at a number of polling locations. While we did not receive any complaints directly from electors about being unable to vote or encountering barriers on polling day, I must assume that everything Ms. Crowe observed was accurate. Ms. Crowe and her campaign were in contact with us concerning other matters during the by-election; I am saddened that neither she nor her campaign raised these concerns with me or the Returning Officer on polling day so that we could have addressed them while the polls were open.

To my mind, this speaks to two things we are addressing.

First, we need to ensure that we do more to let electors know they can contact Elections Ontario if they are experiencing difficulty with access at a polling location to obtain appropriate assistance.

Second, we need to have appropriate service standards and processes in place. Elections Ontario needs to have better standards for selecting accessible voting locations, removing barriers, and inspecting locations during the course of polling day.

Thank you for raising these matters with me.

Sincerely,

Greg Essensa
Chief Electoral Officer

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier

Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community & Social Services
Hon. James Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Greg Sorbara, Chair, Select Committee on Elections
Tim Hudak, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Andrea Horwath, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy
Dana Richardson, Interim Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs and Housing

March 19, 2010 Email to David Lepofsky from Rosanne Waters, Executive Assistant to Greg Essensa

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

Please find the returning officer accessibility reports attached to this email, in MS Word format. The 2007 General Election reports are all compiled into a single document, as discussed. The reports from the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock and St. Paul's by-elections are also attached as separate Word documents.

Thank you,

Rosanne

April 6 2010 Email from David Lepofsky to Rosanne Waters, Executive Assistant to Greg Essensa

I was wondering if you could let me know the name of the accessible voting machine that Elections Ontario has tested, as well as the name of the company that makes it. Also, I note from a presentation that Greg Essensa made to the Select Committee on Elections that $6,000 of the $11,000 cost of the machine is attributable to the vote-counting technology. Does that mean Elections Ontario could get the machine for $5,000 if it did not include the vote tabulating feature, and only provided for the accessible voting/verification features?

Eager to hear on this. Thanks.

April 7 2010 email to David Lepofsky from Rosanne Waters, Executive Assistant to Greg Essensa

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

Thank you for your email. In the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock and St. Paul's by-elections, Elections Ontario piloted the ImageCast Tabulator and Ballot Marking Device made by Dominion Voting Systems (DVS).

As the Chief Electoral Officer stated in answer to a question at the Select Committee on March 24, 2009, we understood that particular model could be purchased for about $11,000. The tabulator component cost about $6,000 and the ballot marking device cost about $5,000. For more information about the technical features and current purchase costs for this equipment, you should contact Dominion Voting Systems (DVS).

Tabulators and assistive devices are made and sold by a number of manufacturers. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) website has information on this. Their website is: http://www.ifes.org. IFES also offers a buyer's guide website on voting equipment, which can be found here: http://www.ifesbuyersguide.com/

I hope that this information is helpful.

Sincerely,

Rosanne Waters