Small army mobilized to ensure a fair Ontario vote

By the time the very first ballot is cast on Ontario’s Oct. 6. election, a small army of workers will have spent thousands of hours and millions dollars working to ensure all goes well.

At a warehouse and office for the riding of Oakville, roughly 30 employees work day and night, seven days a week preparing and assembling everything that is needed for the big day.

Elections clerk for Oakville, Jennifer Neal, says planning for this year’s election began in the spring of 2010. “There is a lot of work that goes into an election that people don’t realize,” she said.

There are over 257 ballot boxes, with each requiring everything from poll records, signs, posters, documents, forms and other supplies to ensure that the voting experience is efficient.

The cost that goes into a provincial election is enormous; according to Neal the budget for Oakville alone is estimated at over $350,000 dollars.

Province wide it runs to the millions of dollars,” Neal said. “There are 107 ridings in Ontario and each district has its own budget. My budget says that I have 2,570 hours to work with.”

One of the main challenges is finding and hiring enough staff to work before, during and after the election.

According to Donna Goodfellow, recruiting officer for Oakville, approximately 700 people were needed to work for the upcoming election.

Since hiring and training began in early September, Goodfellow and her team of recruiters have filled most of the 700 jobs available.

“The majority of people that have worked in past elections have volunteered to work again,” Goodfellow said. “There is however a lot of interest from students.”

There are various positions that are needed in each riding for an election, such as a poll clerk, Deputy Returning Officer (DRO), Supervising Deputy Returning Officer (SDRO), and an area manager.

Elections Ontario pays each position differently on Election Day. Poll clerks receive $157 for the day, DRO’s are paid $196, while SDRO’s and area managers receive over $200 for the day.  Besides being paid for the day, workers are also paid for the required training shift.

Goodfellow believes that there are three groups of people who want to work on the day of the election, retired people, students, and those who are out of work and just need a job.

“The first wave of people is the ones who are truly interested in serving the country,” she said. “They feel like they are doing something useful for the country.”

The retired and older workers are typically the ones who feel that they are serving their country but some of the students feel the same way, Goodfellow added.

“The students, I think sort of feel that way,” she said. “They want to get that experience, but they are also looking for money.”

Election worker and post-secondary student Matthew Lam worked in the previous election in 2007 and is thrilled to be working again this year.

“The way the management treats their employees is quite favourable,” he said. “They trust that the tasks are completed and that trust goes a long way.”