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Canada's Government Introduces the Expanded Voting Opportunities Bill

OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwire) -- 06/12/09 -- The Hon. Steven Fletcher, Minister of State (Democratic Reform), today introduced in the House of Commons legislation to give Canadians more chances to vote during federal elections. Jacques Gourde, M.P for Lotbiniere-Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue, joined Minister Fletcher in the announcement

The Expanded Voting Opportunities Act would amend the Canada Elections Act to add two additional advance polling days during elections. Increased voting opportunities will help ensure that Canadians are not prevented from voting by the often competing demands of modern day society.

"Many Canadians still find it difficult to get out and vote because of school, work or family commitments," said Minister Fletcher. "Providing more opportunities to vote will help to increase their participation in elections."

The Expanded Voting Opportunities Act adds two new advance polling days to the campaign period, on the Sunday 8 days before election day and on the Sunday immediately before election day. More important, all 65,000 regular polls will be open on the Sunday before election day. This will maximize the opportunity for Canadians to vote at advance polls in their own neighbourhood.

"Voter participation is fundamental to the health of our democratic institutions," added M. Gourde. "It is important for the Government to do all it can to encourage citizens to participate in the democratic process."

BACKGROUNDER

Amendments to the Canada Elections Act (expanded voting opportunities)

Canadians currently have access to three advance polling days on Friday, Saturday and Monday, the tenth, ninth and seventh days respectively before election day, between the hours of noon and 8 p.m. The number of polling stations open on advance polling days is considerably more limited than is the case on election day. During the last general election, advance polls were established in 3,071 polling locations across Canada, as compared to 15,205 ordinary polling locations used on general voting day.

The Expanded Voting Opportunities Act would add two additional advance polling days. The first would be on Sunday, eight days before election day. This would create a block of four consecutive voting days between the tenth day and the seventh day before the election.

The second would be on the Sunday immediately before election day. All polling stations used for election day would be open, maximizing voting opportunities for Canadians at a time when interest in the election is peaking.

Maximizing the opportunities for Canadians to vote is particularly important in view of falling voter participation rates. While voter participation rates in national elections averaged around 75 per cent for much of the post-war era, voter turnout fell to 67 per cent in 1997, 61.2 per cent in the 2000 election and 60.5 per cent in the 2004 election. Although turnout rebounded somewhat in the 2006 election when it rose to 64.9 per cent, it fell again in the 2008 election to an all-time low of 58.8 per cent.

Canadians are increasingly making use of advance polls to cast their vote. In 1997, a total of 704,336 Canadians voted at advance polls, representing 5 per cent of total votes cast. In the 2008 election, 1.5 million Canadians voted at advance polls, representing 11 per cent of total votes cast.

Contacts:
Office of the Minister of State (Democratic Reform)
Cherie Godin
613-943-6975

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