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Advocate urges non-voters to decline their ballots instead

Wishing you could tick off a “none of the above” box at the polls this Thursday? Well, you’re not alone and you’re in luck. An oft-overlooked section of the Ontario Elections Act allows for voters to decline to vote but still have their ballot counted without spoiling it.

According to section 53 of the OEA, if a voter turns up to vote and hands in their ballot unmarked, the deputy returning officer will mark it as “declined” and it will be counted in a separate category of voters who chose not to support any of the candidates. These are tallied differently from ballots that have been “spoiled” (marked in a way that doesn’t indicate any candidate).

A long-time Progressive Conservative member and supporter, Paul Synnott of Windsor, was feeling disillusioned with the party lately, but didn’t like any of the other options. He knew he would decline to vote this year but when he realized how few of his friends knew of that option, he decided to launch an awareness campaign called Decline Your Vote.

“The more people I talked to, the more I heard that they weren’t going to bother voting this time as they didn’t care for any of the parties. This was especially true of younger people I spoke with,” Mr. Synnott said.

“Many of these people became interested when I explained the Decline Your Vote option. I call it Elections Ontario’s ‘dirty little secret.’ It’s almost impossible to find any information about it on either the main Elections Ontario website or their wemakevotingeasy.ca site.”

Mr. Synnott has a Facebook page, Twitter account and website to spread the word about the “none of the above” option for voters. He said the majority of followers and users interacting with the campaign are young voters, a demographic that frequently has a low voter turnout.

An active democratic participant, Mr. Synnott has worked on political campaigns in the past and tunes into as much election coverage as he can. He said if he wasn’t declining his vote, he probably would have been working on a Tory campaign again.

“I believe in being involved in the political process in any way possible,” he said.

“If I wasn’t going to vote for a party, then I still felt the need to do something.”

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