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Re: 2014 Municipal election -Internet voting service for persons with disabilities

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February 18, 2014 
To: Members of Toronto City Council 
Toronto City Hall 
100 Queen St. W. 
Toronto ON M5H 2N2 

Re: Agenda item CC48.4 -Contract Award -RFP No. 3405-13-3197 -2014  Municipal Election -Internet Voting Service for Persons with Disabilities 

Dear members of Toronto City Council, 
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) appreciates the opportunity to have participated in the City of Toronto's recent consultation about internet voting. I am pleased that City Council is considering implementing internet and telephone voting for the upcoming 2014 municipal election. The OHRC supports alternative methods of voting as ways to increase access for people with disabilities to participate in political life. City staff's proposal on how to take steps to increase accessibility reflects the spirit of the Ontario Human Rights Code, and may assist the City in meeting its obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. 
It is also in line with Canada's commitments made in the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to increase participation in political and public life for people with disabilities. By ratifying the Convention, Canada agreed to take progressive steps to ensure that voting procedures are appropriate and accessible. 
The electoral principle of lIaccessibility" recognizes that persons with disabilities should be able to vote without assistance. Accessibility includes the human rights principles of inclusive design, respect for dignity and accommodation of individual need. Inclusive design means the ideal goal should be as many people as possible, with and without disabilities, are able to use the same voting technology and procedures (on-site or  remotely), recognizing that some people with disabilities may still need a different accommodation. The commitment to begin implementing internet and telephone voting for persons with disabilities during the advance voting period is an important first step in realizing these goals. 
The OHRC understands that voter list disclosure requirements could end up identifying persons with disabilities who register for internet or telephone voting. This could raise confidentiality concerns under the Human Rights Code, which has primacy over other Ontario laws. The issue should be examined more closely. 
The OHRC looks forward to reviewing the City's evaluation report after the election so improvements can continue towards making elections more accessible for voters and candidates with disabilities. 
If you have any questions or require further assistance, please feel free to contact me, or my staff, Jeff Poirier, Senior Policy Analyst at 416-314-4539. 
Yours truly, 
Barbara Hall, B.A., LL.B, Ph.D (hon.) 
Chief Commissioner 
Copy: The Honourable Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing 
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario 
Jim Sanders, Chair, Accessibility Standards Advisory Council 
Greg Essensa, Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Ontario 
David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance