By Geof Collis
In a recent article and Television Interview Blind Voter Lashes Out Over City’s Mail-In Ballots I had brought to light the discrimination shown by a Majority of City Council with regards to the voting process they adopted.
I decided to investigate further and wasn’t any happier with how Council chose Mail In Ballots.
After reading the “minutes” for this decision I discovered 15 Council members voted for this method without even discussing other “Options” put forth by the City Clerk, only 3 voted against.
I had spoken with a couple of the City’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) members and was informed that it wasn’t even discussed, it was a foregone conclusion. So much for these Committees if Council doesn’t even solicit their input on a matter of Accessibility.
In the TV Interview Mayor Ric McGee is quoted as saying:
We want people with disabilities to have that same right, and sometimes it’s not the way everybody would like it to be. But there’s a problem
with every system of voting. And everybody will have their own opinions on that. So we’re trying to compromise to give everybody their opportunity to exercise their democratic right.
How is it a “Compromise” when other options are not discussed and the AAC was not consulted?
According to the definition of the word, Compromise means:
“a. A settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions.
To reduce the quality, value, or degree of something.”
So what concessions were made? Let’s see, those able can stay home and vote while those who cant get to go to City Hall and by doing so they diminished the quality of the Voting Process. I guess then it was a Compromise.
Cobourg decided that Phone and Internet voting went so well they’ve adopted it again for the upcoming election and as the TV Journalist in the Interview said:
18 municipalities used telephone and Internet voting in the 2006 election. In 4 out of 5 of those municipalities, not only did it save money, , it also increased
Now that’s a real “Compromise”. Everyone can vote from the Independence and Privacy of their own home if they choose.
Upon further investigation I found the Disabled really didn’t have any options according to the City’s website.
In the Brochure at http://www.city.kawarthalakes.on.ca/city-hall/office-of-the-city-clerk/election/city-of-kawartha-lakes-2010-municipal-election/brochure it states:
“The secrecy and confidentiality of the individual votes is paramount;
b. The election should be fair and non-biased;
c. The election should be accessible to the voters;”
And on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page http://www.city.kawarthalakes.on.ca/city-hall/office-of-the-city-clerk/election/voter-faqs it states:
“Q – Can someone else vote on my behalf?
A – No. You must complete your own mail-in ballot kit and sign the declaration form. There is no proxy voting available when using the mail-in voting
NOTE: It is an offence to sign someone else’s signature or forge someone else’s signature.”
“Q – Will I be notified of where and when to vote?
A – No – you will receive your mail-in voting kit at the address listed on the voters’ list. Just read and complete the instructions, mail back your completed ballot kit and you will be marked off the voters’ list and your ballot will be processed.”
So as a Blind person I will be sent a Ballot Kit that I will not be able to READ to find out that I cannot be able to fill it out and will have to get into a car I cannot drive to go City Hall to use the ONLY Voting machine in the area to do so. I were to live in any of the farthest reaches of the City I could be looking as much as an 3 hour round trip, my Wife can vote in minutes but has to drive me there. What a Compromise!
All Disabled who want to Vote and have to use this method will be paraded through City Hall for anyone to see, so much for Independence and Privacy.
Of course we could always break the rules and get someone to help us to vote and then mail it in.
I’m sure Kawartha Lakes is not the only jurisdiction in Ontario where Councillors are willing to “Compromise” away the rights of the Disabled.
With the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) being “Compromised” and Politicians like those in Kawartha Lakes not seeking input from AAC’s perhaps it’s time to really take a look at who we are voting for, Municipally and Provincially.
If their idea of a “Compromise” is where the Disabled make the only concessions. If they dont have the words “help for the Disabled” in their Platforms or they’ve never heard of the AODA, then you need to ask them why and vote accordingly.
If we dont start holding Politicians accountable now then 2025 will have come and gone and we’ll still be fighting for our rights under the AODA.
If you live in Kawartha lakes and want to see who voted in favour of this method go to www.aoda.ca/minutes.doc(Word document, 388 kb).