City of Toronto Election 2022, Managing Deputy Returning Officer: Comments

After 3 previous elections I thought I’d try this year’s 2022 Oct 24 City of Toronto election as a managing deputy returning officer. The experience running an election site was interesting, and despite the low turnout, busier than I had thought.

The managing deputy returning officer (MDRO) position manages a complete election site with up to 10 other election workers.These include:

  1. the ballot DROs (5, they look up voters and give them a ballot), and one each of
  2. tabulator officer (feeds the ballots into the counting machine),
  3. access officer (ensures all voters have access to the site and are able to vote)
  4. revising officer (changes information on the voting lists), and
  5. customer service officer (checks that voters have ID ready, directs them to a ballot DRO)

Will I be scheduled for breaks and lunches on election day?

Election officials will be permitted to take breaks at the discretion of the MDRO during off-peak/non-busy times at the voting place. Each voting place will vary in terms of busyness on election day. Election officials are reminded to bring a water bottle and enough food for the day including lunch, dinner and any required snacks. Reminder: if you are assigned a role at a school, please do not bring any products containing nuts. Also, bring any prescription medication you normally take during the day.

I am still unsure of the legality, but forcing 10 people working a 14 hour day to have no breaks or lunch seems a far stretch. Contracted out or not, we should be treating workers better. Further, people work more efficiently and more accurately when they have breaks and lunch. It only made sense to me to find a way to do better.

In my case one of my ballot DROs was MIA, and in the end did not show up. On the Sunday before the election I called and then emailed Elections Toronto about my problem, and did not hear back from them. On the day of the election a substitute appeared, but he was a revising officer and not a ballot DRO. So I was down one ballot DRO and had an extra revising officer. This turned out to be a good thing.

My goal was to provide election workers with one 30 minute lunch and two 15 minute breaks. I thought that this was only fair. The question was, how to do this while providing uninterrupted service to incoming voters, which came in at random times.

Breaking up the Team
I moved my original revising officer to the ballot DRO position because she looked like she’d learn quickly and was flexible. The 5 ballot DROs can substitute for each other because there is only a single polling number. The individual lists are alphabetic. To give a ballot DRO a break one only needs to hand their list to an adjacent ballot DRO.


he access officer works at the front of the building, greeting voters and ensuring their access. The CS officer could substitute for her.

The tabulator officer replacement had to be trained. Since the position is easy if everything goes well, I used a ballot DRO as substitute for one break, and used the CS officer for other breaks.

The revising officer, thanks to having two revising officers, was easy. I relieved the CS officer for her breaks.

The benefit of cross training for positions is that election workers were exposed to different positions at very low risk, and they were able to have breaks and lunch. While it sounds a bit chaotic, it did work out in the end. Providing breaks to election workers could not be done without their skill in their own positions and their willingness to be flexible with their work.

Contacting Elections Toronto
I had some questions and emailed them to Elections Toronto a week before the election. They acknowledged receipt (email bot) never returned with answers.

When I was unable to contact my missing ballot DRO, on Sunday before the election I called and then emailed them. I did not receive a response. The new revising officer showed me his letter of work.

The Cart/Locker
Unlike the Federal and Provincial elections, all supplies were delivered to the site and locked in a black locker on wheels. My supervisor DRO provided me with the combo. This worked out really well. We were missing no supplies. There was no need to go to the elections office to pick up and more importantly drop off stuff after a long election day. End of day cleanup was easy, and I was able to return home after a mere 45 mins after polls closed. This was a breakthrough for me.

Covid Precautions and PPE
My site was provided with hand sanitizer (2 large bottles, 5 small bottles) and a box of 10 masks. There was no disinfectant wipes available. I’d say this was inadequate.

Supervisor DRO
The supervisor DRO, my manager, had responsibility for 3 sites nearby, and he was really good. Thanks SeanB, you were great to work with. The supervisor DRO was available using text or calls.

Training: Adequate
MDRO training was for me a mixed bag. Because of past election experience I knew most of the positions already, but there were minor differences that were not explained. The full training guides for the MDRO was available on the day of the election, in the locker, but on the day of and at the beginning of the day, there is very little time to read it. It would have been better to have all training books delivered to the MDRO before the election. We would have been better prepared.

For example, to open the tabulator it needed a special code, which was not the code for the locker. After three tries the tabulator locked up and had to be powered down. Only after worryingly reading the MDRO manual did I find the answer. This was not covered in the MDRO training.

Hot Water is Critical
My team had a mix of old Chinese, new Chinese, South Asians and a Canadian. While the school could not provide hot water or microwave, I brought an electric kettle which was very well received y the team. I was surprised by how many people use hot water over a 14 hour period.

Attesting you are an Eligible Voter
I had guessed that the revising officer role would have instructions to allow voters to attest they are Canadian citizens and live in Ontario. Unlike the Fed or provincial election, the attestation had no form, but was oral. There is no proof that anyone attested. The attestation instructions were also on the ballot DRO placemat (instruction sheet) and not on the revising officer’s placemat. I think instructions were in the wrong place.

Quality of the Voter List
There were many duplicate entries in the voters list. Same name and info at the same address. Similar names with only a single letter difference. Adding age eligible kids that are now 18 years old, but cannot be done by parents. There should be an easier way to correct the voter list.

Site Layout Map
I did not even know there was a recommended site layout map on the inside door of the locker. This was not in the training. It was only after we had set up the site that I saw the recommended layout map in the locker. No matter, our layout was superior because the tabulator was not near a wall outlet. Again, better MDRO training would have helped.

Assisted Voting for Disabled Voters
This was very useful and allowed disabled voters to vote from their car.

Braille Help cards
The Braille help cards were printed on plastic but were not bound and could become out of order. As there was not English lettering on these 4 Braille cards, we would not be able to put them back in order or even know what was on the card.

Multi-Language Election Workers
Toronto has a diverse population. Election workers are a good representative of voters. I asked all election workers if they could speak a different language. This is very helpful to voters.

Overall the election experience was much better than the federal or provincial elections. The addition of the tabulator and the cart made life a lot easier, especially at the end of poll close. Less mental load means more accuracy and better quality. Less time spent after the polls close is much appreciated by election workers. We are tired after working of the whole day.

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