CBC News uncovered a potential breach of municipal voting rules in Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina on Tuesday.
At an advanced voting station at the Cecil Community Centre on Spadina Avenue, elderly voters — many of whom did not speak fluent English — were found with sample ballots with the name and number of Ward 20 city council candidate Tonny Louie already marked off.
Sample ballots are readily available on the city’s website, and are meant to prepare voters for what they will see when they arrive to vote.
But the rules surrounding municipal voting are clear – once someone has entered a polling station, they cannot be influenced in any manner and campaign materials are strictly forbidden.
CBC News obtained examples of the pre-marked ballots, and took them to Louie for comment. The city council candidate said voting aids are sometimes necessary for elderly voters, who have trouble reading the small print on the ballots and can become confused if English is not their first language.
“I think people are having problems reading the names of candidates because there are so many — just for mayor there are 65 names, and a lot of seniors are 90-years-old, so what are you going to do?” Louie said.
Louie denied that his campaign handed out the pre-marked sample ballots as a guide, but said that a grassroots group in Ward 20 that supports particular candidates was responsible.
City spokesperson Jackie DeSouza acknowledged there were problems at the polling station Tuesday, primarily that a number of non-English speaking voters showed up and there was not translators on hand to assist them. She said that voters are asked to bring their own interpreters, such as a family member or friend, who can help them cast their intended vote.
DeSouza also said that staff are trying to enforce the regulation barring campaign materials inside polling stations.
But reassurances of diligence have not entirely eased some voters' concerns that lax oversight could jeopardize the validity of the election.
“There were voters showing each other ballots behind the screens … You could see the other person voting,” said Louis Kestler, who cast a ballot at the polling station along with his brother Henry.
“Perhaps the supervision should be done a bit better in terms of making sure it’s a fair electoral process for everyone,” Henry said.
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