Elections Ontario says it’s aware of technical issues reported at some polling stations, but it’s unclear how many stations are facing system problems or when they might be resolved.

In Ottawa Vanier, where Rachelle Crete is the returning elections officer, she says several polling stations have had to convert to paper ballots.

She said she believes the technical issues are happening provincewide. Regardless, Crete said, “everything should go smoothly all the same.”

  • Having a problem at your polling station? Email tonews@cbc.ca

Elections Ontario has released minimal information about the issues. Around 10 a.m., it said it was aware of the reported issues and was working on a solution.

In a statement around 12:30 p.m. spokesperson Ebru Ozdemir Erol said, “There are no technical issues that are impacting the voting process.”

Polls have officially opened in Ontario after a month-long election campaign that saw parties battle over the best approaches to affordability, health care and infrastructure.

Polling stations will be open across the province between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Voters must bring with them a form of official identification along with their registration cards. If you don’t have a registration card, you must bring one piece of ID with your name and address on it to your assigned polling station.

Voters weren’t the only ones who experienced technological issues Thursday.

For at least five hours, the Elections Ontario portal that parties rely on to guide their get-out-the-vote campaigns didn’t work.

Lack of data a ‘massive’ campaign disruption for some

By about 2:30 p.m., Elections Ontario said it had fixed the problem, which saw no voter information data flowing to political parties for much of Thursday morning after polls opened.

The issue didn’t affect voters at the polls, but rather the information that flows to parties to let them know who has or has not voted, which is known as “strike-off data.”

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That data is used by parties to figure out who they need to try to get out to polling stations.

“The connectivity issue has been resolved and strike-off data is now being updated automatically,” said Elections Ontario spokesperson Nicole Taylor.

“Elections Ontario worked diligently with our telecommunications provider to resolve this issue promptly.”

Several parties told The Canadian Press they received one update Thursday morning, but that there were supposed to be batches of voter information sent automatically every 15 minutes.

The data did not begin flowing until shortly after 2 p.m, though parties were still able to gather that information by hand at polling stations.

While not every party was impacted by the lack of information, it can make a big difference in some campaigns where the margin of victory comes down to a couple hundred votes or less, said Maureen Balsillie, who manages Matt Richter’s Green Party campaign in Parry Sound.

Balsillie said the lack of data was “a massive disruption of our processes.”

Polling station changes

Also Thursday, Elections Ontario announced some polling stations in Toronto Centre, Mississauga East-Cooksville, and in several Ottawa-area ridings would be moving to new locations.

Here is a list of polling stations that have changed locations:

  • 1001 Bay Street and 887 Bay Street have been moved to the YMCA Metro Central at 20 Grosvenor Street.
  • 473 Yonge Street has been moved to the Toronto Metropolitan University Student Centre at 55 Gould Street.
  • 486 Paisley Boulevard has been moved to the Cashmere Avenue Public School at 3455 Cashmere Avenue.
  • The St. Monica School poll in Nepean has been moved to The Metropolitan Bible Church at 2176 Prince of Wales Dr.
  • The Sacred Heart High School poll in Carleton has been moved to Johnny Leroux Arena at 10 Warner-Colpitts Lane.
  • The Merivale High School poll has been moved to École secondaire publique Omer-Deslauriers at 159 Chesterton Drive.

Elections Ontario is advising people to check their voting stations by searching their postal code on the Elections Ontario website or application ahead of time.

Despite fewer polling stations this year compared to 2018, Elections Ontario spokesperson, Jo Langham, says the voting process this election day is expected to be “faster and easier” now.

“We don’t expect people to run into lines,” Langham told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Thursday.

Langham said “technology-enabled” polling stations along with larger venues for physical distancing, will allow voters to cast their ballots faster than previous elections.

The new bank teller model adopted by Elections Ontario —which allows the next voter in line can go to whichever polling official is free instead of waiting for the person designated for their poll — will also help get voters in and out as quickly as possible, Langham said.

Still trying to make up your mind?

If you’re trying to make a last-minute decision on who to vote for, check out this CBC News story.

As for the main political party leaders, there’s a lot at stake.

Polling conducted earlier in the campaign suggests the Progressive Conservatives, led by Doug Ford, are poised to form a second majority government.

Ford has campaigned largely on his party’s promises to build Ontario highways and hospitals, and other measures he’s touted as job-creators. In recent days he’s taken few questions from reporters and his whole campaign has been light on policy detail and heavy on his slogan: “Get it done.”

The New Democrat and Liberal leaders have both been presenting themselves as the only alternative to Ford’s Tories, but haven’t outright said they will work together in the event of a Progressive Conservative minority.

It could be the last election as NDP leader for Andrea Horwath, who’s making a fourth run for the premier’s office after her party made gains in 2018 to form the official Opposition in provincial parliament.

The Green Party of Ontario, led by Mike Schreiner, is hoping to expand its caucus of one seat — won by Schreiner in Guelph four years ago — and has been eyeing a potential opening in Parry Sound-Muskoka.

The leaders are expected to hold events in the evening after the results roll in.

Elections Ontario has said that more than one million people voted in advance polls last month and also has noted a sharp rise in mail-in ballots requested compared with the 2018 election.

Voting kits were mailed to 126,135 eligible voters this time around, up from 15,202 ballots last election.

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