With polls suggesting Thursday’s Ontario election will be one of the closest in decades, party insiders are saying the vicissitudes of voting could decide the outcome.

Where to vote

Find out where to cast your ballot at this Elections Ontario site.

All three parties are mounting massive get-out-the-vote efforts to ensure all their supporters cast ballots.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath spent part of Wednesday night exhorting volunteers in the Toronto district of Scarborough–Southwest to drum up every ballot possible in support of candidate Bruce Budd.

"You go out there in the next 24 hours and you work really darn hard making sure that every single person that said they’re going to be supporting [candidate Bruce Budd] goes to the poll and puts their ballot in the ballot box," Horwath intoned.

The federal NDP stole the riding from the Liberals in May’s national election, and the provincial party is hoping it can follow suit.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak had five photo opportunities scheduled for Thursday, hoping to motivate supporters to get out to the polls.

Elsewhere in the Toronto area, Horwath’s team will be duelling with Dalton McGuinty's Liberals for every vote they can get in constituencies like Bramalea–Gore–Malton and Mississauga East–Cooksville. In Kitchener, all three leading parties are paired off in a trio of races that look to be squeakers. Other achingly close calls are shaping up in Niagara and in Windsor.

In all those cases, a massive late September poll by Forum Research, with enough respondents to have some statistical accuracy at the constituency level, suggests the top two candidates are within five percentage points of each other.

Party strategists often say a good get-out-the-vote operation on election day can add 10 per cent to a candidate’s vote total — meaning the party that pulls the most votes could take the riding, and possibly tip the balance in the too-close-to-call race to form the next government.

Tactics to suppress voting

With so much at stake with every ballot, party volunteers will be knocking on doors of their identified supporters, calling them at home and even driving people to polling places.

Party workers will also be tempted to deploy tactics to thwart rivals’ supporters. At polling stations, election scrutineers could try to challenge voters who don’t have all the right documentation to get a ballot, for instance.

But that will be more difficult than in the spring federal campaign, since Ontario has relatively easy ID requirements: acceptable documents include a credit card, hospital bracelet, university tuition bill or T4 tax slip.

By midday Thursday, Elections Ontario spokesperson Julia Bennett said she had heard nothing about any polling-place hitches or irregularities. There were no reports of the kinds of skullduggery seen in the federal election, when phony calls purporting to come from Elections Canada tried to misdirect voters in close ridings to non-existent polling places.

Elections officials were still hoping turnout would top the 2007 provincial campaign, when a record low 52.6 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.