Government Introduces MEA Modernization Act

Yesterday the government introduced Bill 181, the Municipal Elections Act Modernization Act. The legislation is the result of a thorough public consultation and review of the Act, which included AMCTO’s submission. The legislation appears to be a positive step forward for election administrators and AMCTO is pleased to see that the government has adopted a number of its recommendations, including:
• Allowing candidates to file forms electronically
• Removing the requirements for original signatures for everything but third-party registration, nomination forms, and proxies
• Removing the requirements for using registered mail
• Making accessibility reporting more effective
• Shortening the campaign period
• Creating a framework for third party advertising
• Giving municipalities the option to limit or prohibit corporate and union donations
• Providing candidates greater flexibility to accept contributions from more modern payment methods
• Considering a nominal increase to the candidate nomination fee
• Allowing candidates to correct errors in their financial statement up until the deadline
• Extending the clerk’s authority for removing names from the voters’ list
• Clarifying the rules for finalizing financial statements
• Giving clerks, rather than councils, the authority to determine the dates and times for advance voting, extended and reduced voting hours, and early opening on voting day
• Creating a voters’ list working group to identify long-term solutions for an improved voters’ list

Over the coming weeks AMCTO staff will consult with members to gain a more fulsome understanding of this legislation. As this bill moves through the legislative process we will request to appear during committee hearings and ensure that the voice of Ontario’s election administrators is heard, and helps to inform the review and implementation of this legislation.
In the meantime, you can find a more detailed update of the legislation below:

Ranked Ballots 

  • The proposed legislation would address items such as consulting with the public before a municipality decides to implement ranked ballots, how votes in a ranked ballot election would be counted, and which offices on a municipal council may be elected using ranked ballots. The framework and details for ranked ballot elections would be set out in regulation.

Election Administration 

  • Municipalities and school boards would be required to establish policies regarding the use of municipal/board resources during a campaign
  • Councils and boards would be able to establish policies prior to the election setting out additional conditions for an automatic recount
  • Clerks, rather than councils, would determine dates and times for advance voting, reducing voting hours in certain institutions, and early opening on voting day
  • Advance voting could not begin more than 30 days before voting day
  • Clerks would be given the authority to provide for electronic filing for financial statements

Election Calendar

  • Opening of nomination period would be changed from January 1st to May 1st of an election year
  • Nomination day would move from second Friday in September to fourth Friday in July
  • Deadlines for ballot questions would also be moved earlier: March 1st for a municipality to pass a by-law to include a question on the ballot, and May 1st for upper tier municipalities, school boards, or ta Minister to put a question on the ballot

Eligibility

  • Candidates who wish to run for council would now be required to submit 25 endorsement signatures along with their nomination form. Those who sign endorsements would have to also sign a declaration that they are eligible to vote.

Voters’ List 

  • The clerk would be able to determine additional formats for applications to amend the voters’ list
  • Requests to delete another person’s name would only be allowed for deceased persons
  • Clerks would be able to remove the names of persons they know to be deceased
  • All applications for changes to the voters’ list would be allowed from September 1 until the close of voting day
  • The current voters’ list working group will continue to identify and pursue long-term solutions for improving the voters’ list

Accessibility 

  • Clerks would be required to prepare a plan for the identification, removal, and prevention of barriers that affect voters and candidates with disabilities and make that plan available to the public before voting day. Following the election, a report will be made available to the public within 90 days after the election
  • Use of registered mail would no longer be required
  • The requirement for original signatures would be limited to nomination forms, third party registration forms, and proxy application forms

Third Party Advertising 

  • A new framework will be created for third party advertising
  • Individuals, corporations and unions that are entitled to make contributions to candidates may register to be third party advertisers
  • There would be no registration fee for third party advertisers
  • A third party may register in multiple municipalities, but each registration is a separate campaign with its own spending limits
  • Third parties would have to abide by the same campaign finance rules as candidates
  • Registration for questions on the ballot would be included in third party advertising

Campaign Finance

  • All municipalities would have the authority to ban contributions from unions and corporations
  • A candidate would not have to open a bank account if they do not raise or spend money
  • Anonymous and cash contributions could not exceed $25
  • Contributions over $25 would have to be made in a way that links the contributors’ name and account with the payment, or by money order
  • If goods sold to raise funds are sold for $25 or less, that amount would be considered campaign income, rather than a contribution
  • The rules for determining if corporations are deemed a single corporation would be simplified
  • The nomination fee would no longer be a campaign expense
  • A new spending limit would be set for parties and expressions of appreciation after voting day
  • After the 2018 election, campaign deficits would not be carried forward from the previous campaign
  • Candidates would be able to close their campaign and file their financial statements before December 31
  • Expenses related to preparation of the auditors report that accompanies the financial statement could be incurred after December 31

Enforcement

  • The nomination fee would only be refundable if the financial statement is filed on time
  • A candidate who misses the filing deadline could file within a 30-day grace period, provided a $500 late filing fee is paid to the municipality
  • A candidate could resubmit a financial statement to correct an error up until the filing deadline
  • The clerk would be required to make a public report of which candidates filed financial statements and which did not
  • A new enforcement mechanism for contributions:
    • The clerk would be required to review all contributions reported on financial statements
    • If a contributor appears to have exceeded a contribution limit, the clerk would prepare a report setting out the contributions, and forward the report to the compliance audit committee
    • The compliance audit committee would consider the report and decide whether or not to commence a legal proceeding against the contributor

Compliance Audit Committees

  • The compliance audit committee would be required to provide a brief written reason for decisions
  • The compliance audit committee meetings would be required to be open to the public
  • Electors would be able to apply for a compliance audit of a third party advertiser’s campaign finances
  • The Minister would be given the authority to make a regulation setting out the qualifications for compliance audit committee members

For more:

MMAH Backgrounder: Proposed Amendments to the Municipal Elections Act 

Municipal Elections Act Review 

Bill 181, Municipal Elections Modernization Act, 2016 

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Government Introduces MEA Modernization Act

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s