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.”

Where do voters get their politics news? TV and the Internet, mostly

In this new digital age, how do you reach voters? Increasingly, parties need to go online. But for now TV is still king.

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Abacus conducted the survey by talking to 2,002 Canadians over the age of 18 through a mix of online panels and live telephone interviews. The data were demographically weighted in line with the general population, and the margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The poll was conducted in January and February of this year.

Ask The Globe: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Globe reader Greg Bennett asks: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

Energy reporter Shawn McCarthy says yes – it’s true. But the answer is a little more complicated:

Conservatives’ attacks on Mulcair not too effective, survey suggests

As explained in today’s story, new survey data from Innovative Research Group suggests the Liberals are having some success with advertising rebutting Conservative attacks against Justin Trudeau. But of course, they wouldn’t need to do so if those attacks hadn’t been effective in branding the Liberal Leader as a “not ready” lightweight to begin with.

To the much more limited extent that the Tories are going after NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, it appears they’re struggling to find an angle that’s similarly effective.

In the same early-August  survey in which it found the Liberals’ new ad has a significant impact on those who see it, the polling company also tested a pair of anti-Mulcair Conservative ads. Both use the same “job interview” format as the ones against Mr. Trudeau, but the attempts to cast Mr. Mulcair as an opportunistic career politician seemed to have more limited effect.

In fact, when Innovative Research screened the first of those spots (above) – asking respondents a series of questions both before and after they saw it – it found no statistically significant impact on either voting intentions or impressions of Mr. Mulcair relative to the other party leaders.

The second ad, which is slightly more focused on alleging Mr. Mulcair has wasted taxpayers’ money and less so on using his longevity in politics and his past as a (Quebec) Liberal to suggest he’s an opportunist, proved somewhat more effective. Among respondents who hadn’t seen it before, support for the NDP went down by five percentage points after they saw it, although it’s not clear whether that went to the Tories or the Liberals. And the share of respondents who chose Mr. Mulcair as the leader who most “cares about people like me” went down by seven points.

While significant, neither of those hits is huge when an ad is viewed in isolation. And on other perceptions of leaders’ qualities, such as competence and who cares most about the middle class, there was again no clear impact.

Considering how little these two ads have been airing so far, it’s possible the Tories aren’t using their best stuff against the NDP yet. But it’s worth remembering that, even with Mr. Trudeau, they spent a while running spots that didn’t really work before they hit their target. If they decide before this campaign is over to make Mr. Mulcair their main target, they’ll have a much smaller window to get it right.

(Full methodology for Innovative Research’s surveys are available from its website.)