The electronic system Elections Ontario uses to keep track of who has voted crashed on election day, depriving the province's political parties of the flow of information they rely on to get out the vote.
Voters could still cast their ballots, and the system was restored by mid-afternoon, but the crash had a huge effect on the parties and voter turnout, according to sources with the NDP and Liberal campaigns, and a veteran Conservative campaigner who spoke on background.
They said Elections Ontario was supposed to be running an electronic portal that would allow parties to get up-to-date lists of who had voted every 15 minutes, but it didn't start working until an update at 2:15 p.m., according to the NDP source.
Polling hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. today.
The information it provides is crucial for parties, because they use it to power their get-out-the-vote operations, which involve calling people who haven't voted yet or knocking on their doors. Some voters rely on their party to help them get to the polls, the NDP source said.
The portal was supposed to be an improvement over previous elections, when scrutineers had to go to polling stations to fill out "bingo sheets" with information on which residents had already voted and which hadn't.
The system crash has meant that the parties had to return to the old way of collecting the information in person at polling stations.
The parties spend a huge amount of time and resources on their get-out-the-vote operations, sources said.
To get the information they need, they had to redirect some of their people to get the information on paper from polling stations and others to enter it into their system, the NDP source said.
Making matters worse, their scrutineers had to wait in line at the polling stations to get the information, the source said, and the party wrote to Elections Ontario asking that scrutineers be allowed to skip the lines.
The Liberal source said the party was essentially flying blind in a lot of neighbourhoods, wasting a lot of time knocking on doors and calling people who'd already voted, something they would have known, had the problem not occurred.
Elections Ontario did not acknowledge the problem, despite repeated requests for comment by reporters, and declined to answer specific questions.
"There are no technical issues at the polls that are impacting the voting process," a spokesperson said in an email.
With files from Charlie Pinkerton.
This story was updated at 1:40 p.m. with additional information from a Liberal source, and at 2:26 p.m. when the system was restored.