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At the last Municipal election for Cobourg, there were concerns that the voters list was in bad shape. This problem is once again being raised by Lydia Smith, President of the Cobourg Taxpayers Association and she points to a report by the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO) which goes into some detail (link below). The basic problem is that the list is first generated by MPAC based on their records of taxpayers and then relies on updates by citizens and Town staff.  Although there are some corrections, many errors are not fixed with a common cause of errors being due to tenants moving but their records not updated. Town staff are doing their best with what they are given – but they are given a poor list.

It’s not just Cobourg that has a problem, the same source of voters’ lists is used across Ontario.  In an AMCTO survey after the AMCTO Logo2014 election, 40% of respondents were either ‘somewhat dissatisfied,’ or ‘very dissatisfied,’ with MPAC’s ability to provide accurate and useful data for the 2014 voters’ list.  This was also true in the 2010 election although it is gradually getting worse.  Several AMCTO members have noted that the current quality relative to costs of the voters’ list would not be tolerated in any other procurement process.

There is no way to quantify how many errors there are in the list but a report by the Napanee Clerk after the 2014 election gives an idea of the problem (Napanee had 12,309 eligible voters compared to Cobourg's 14,709).

Napanee Report on List Inaccuracies

Highlights (see full report below)

The inaccuracy of the voters’ list was the main problem in the election and something that was out of the Town’s control. Staff scrub the data with existing resources and databases available, such as the Town’s death register, within legislative requirements; however the accuracy is still not at an acceptable level, if technology advances in voting methods are to continue to progress (see attached Position Paper by the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks & Treasurers Ontario (AMCTO) – Time to Fix the Voters’ List).

Some examples of errors on the voters’ list include:

  • Deceased residents on the list
  • Underage persons on the list due to inaccurate birth date information
  • People who are no longer qualified electors
  • Duplicates
  • Electors that didn’t receive voter cards however grown children no longer
    residing in the home did
  • Inaccurate or missing elector information.

Tenant information continues to be an increasing challenge.

... ... ... ...

An example of some of the changes made to the voters’ list:

  • 181 deceased electors were removed,
  • 422 electors’ information was updated,
  • 221 duplicates were addressed

Changes such as these have occurred in past elections and staff make every attempt to improve the accuracy of the voters’ list. Changes are forwarded to MPAC following the election. In speaking with other Clerks, these inaccuracies are common in other municipalities as well.

At a presentation at an AMCTO Zone Meeting on April 23rd, 2015, an MPAC Representative reviewed the new tools that MPAC has to assist with the goal of increasing the accuracy of future Preliminary List of Electors (PLEs), including an agreement with the Ministry of Government Services to purchase their database of registered deceased persons to update the election information and access to the National Register of Electors information. MPAC advised that more than 40,000 changes were made to elector information through voterlookup.ca and over 120,000 searches were conducted across Ontario.

Relevant Comments in Cobourg Clerk’s report on 2014 election

  • General improvement of the accuracy of the voters list and update procedures (with the exception of tenant information updates/gaps);
  • MW (MPAC) Voter Look Up and MW Internet Voter Look Up implemented placing responsibility on the Electors to ensure they are on the Voters List including correct information in advance of finalizing Voters List;

That is, we are relying on voters to check their registration and make their own corrections.

The requirement to use the MPAC list (as a starting point) is mandated by the Province – but it’s hard to understand why there are three separate voters’ lists – Federal, Provincial and Municipal.  Do they not communicate with each other?  Hopefully, there’s enough time to resolve this before the election on October 22, 2018.

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