Call it shrinking pains: Toronto’s last-minute scramble to accommodate a downsized 25-ward election map came with a cluster of complications today, with voters reporting a range of delays and malfunctions at several polling locations.
The issues emerged just minutes after polls opened at 10 a.m., with frustrated voters taking to Twitter to complain about voting machine failures at the Scadding Court Community Centre on Dundas St. W. and the Perth Avenue Co-op, near Bloor Ave. and Dundas.
“I’m told they are having ‘issues’ with the tabulation machine and I’ve been asked to come back in 30 minutes. This is unacceptable,” tweeted voter Dominic Stewart from outside Scadding Court.
Managers at both facilities described scenes of confusion, as frustrated voters were told to wait or come back. But in each instance, polling officials were able to quickly initiate workarounds to resume the flow of ballots while technicians worked on the problems.
“Electors can proceed with voting. Their ballots will be placed in ‘auxiliary spot’ on the tabulator,” said spokesperson Tammy Robbinson. “When the tabulator is operational again — technicians have been dispatched — their ballots will be hand-fed and counted.”
The Scadding Court malfunction appeared solved within an hour, Stewart reported in a follow-up tweet, saying, “Just voted — tabulator is now working.”
At Greenwood Towers, a seniors residence, some voters complained of locked outer doors as the polling station there opened. City officials later confirmed the facility maintains locked doors for security reasons but said “an information officer is standing at the inner door to open it for voters.”
At Marshall McLuhan Secondary School, one voter described polling officials were storing ballots in a box due to a machine malfunction. City officials later said “We have reached out to the voting location to ensure that proper protocol is being following.”
Other voters reported confusion over where they were supposed to vote — and frustration with the format of myvote.toronto.ca, which is meant to provide the answer. The site lists polling locations after a residential address is inputted, but the list was beginning with advance polling locations, which are different from election-day locations. That proved unhelpful for those who didn’t scroll down more deeply to find the correct address.
Elections staff fixed the website by early afternoon, so it only shows election-day locations.
By midday, with another eight hours of voting to go, reports of problems appeared to be easing. In a statement to the Star, city officials said, “Polls opened at 1,700 locations across the city this morning. The City Clerk encourages all eligible electors who have not voted in the advance polls to vote today.”
The city clerk and her elections staff were under enormous pressure to prepare for polls to open without delay, starting with advance voting on Oct. 10.
In mid-September, in the midst of the uncertainty created by the province, clerk Ulli Watkiss told council she was at a “tipping point” — no longer sure she could prepare the election in time.
The clerk is responsible for administering the election and ensuring its integrity and fairness. Preparations for the 47-ward election started in earnest in January, long before Premier Doug Ford acted to reduce Toronto city council to 25 seats.
The provincially mandated downsizing caused a ripple effect, as the clerk’s staff scrambled to redo polling; recalculate candidates’ campaign spending limits; prepare and send a different set of voter information cards to all registered voters; re-tabulate voting machines used at polling stations; and revise voting locations and more in just two months.
With files from Jack Hauen and Jennifer Pagliaro
Mitch Potter is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @MPwrites