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Meeting Summary – Annual General Meeting – October 6–7, 2014

Day 1 – Introductory Remarks and Report by the Chief Electoral Officer

The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Marc Mayrand, welcomed members to the 2014 AGM, recognized new participants, and provided an update on EC initiatives, with particular emphasis on readiness activities leading up to the next general election.

ACPP consultations since the 2013 AGM

Most ACPP members participated in the consultative workshop on EC initiatives in November 2013. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss a proposed new voting services model and the opening of EC offices in new locations during the next general election. As a result of the introduction of Bill C-23, EC has delayed the pilot project on the new voting model. Instead, EC will implement a partially streamlined approach to manage and carry out voting operations at the polls.

In December 2013, EC invited all political parties to participate in bilateral technical briefings on how to update party voter databases using the lists EC provides. Bilateral sessions were held in January 2014 with parties that accepted the invitation. The feedback received on these items was integrated into election readiness planning.

Election readiness

Significant progress has been made over the last several months to get ready for the next federal general election. Bill C-23 received Royal Assent on June 19. Many of the resulting changes and new provisions in the Canada Elections Act that emerged from Bill C-23 are to be implemented for the next general election.

By-elections

The CEO noted that by-elections were held on November 25, 2013, in Bourassa, Brandon–Souris, Provencher and Toronto Centre, and on June 30, 2014, in Fort McMurray–Athabasca, Macleod, Scarborough–Agincourt and Trinity–Spadina. He added that ACPP members would be advised when by–elections are called in Whitby–Oshawa and Yellowhead.

Accessibility

EC established the Advisory Group for Disability Issues (AGDI) to seek advice on accessibility initiatives and to address access barriers at the polls. AGDI will hold its third meeting in November 2014, at which time members will be consulted on a proposed Accessible Service Policy, to be shared with the ACPP at its next meeting, in December 2014.

Implementing new electoral boundaries

In 2013–2014, EC saw the electoral boundaries readjustment process through to its conclusion. The representation order describing and naming Canada's new electoral districts was proclaimed in October 2013. EC completed the process under budget and was ready to implement the new 338 electoral district boundaries on May 1, 2014, within seven months of the proclamation, as prescribed in the legislation. ACPP members have been updated regularly on the various phases of implementing the new boundaries.

Civic education

EC has continued to use the Canada's Democracy Week initiative to advance its civic education mandate, as well as to engage young electors to get ready to vote in the lead-up to the 2015 federal general election. This year's Canada's Democracy Week activities focused mainly on engaging high school students, teachers and student teachers through the National Democracy Challenge, events and the promotion of civic education resources. EC also held a series of knowledge development and transfer workshops under the “Inspire Democracy” theme, which engaged youth service organizations to discuss EC research on electoral participation and share practical steps on the registration and voting processes.

Round table discussion

There were questions regarding new roles and responsibilities at EC, as well as the working relationships with the Commissioner of Canada Elections and with the Canadian Radio television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The CEO stated that EC has established a Regulatory Affairs Sector whose responsibilities include political financing, legal services and the Electoral Integrity Office. The CEO also agreed to the suggestion to invite the Commissioner, as well as the CRTC, to an upcoming ACPP meeting, to discuss new roles as well as new rules in communicating with electors.

The CEO was asked what was planned in the way of communications to alert electors if there are inappropriate communications, such as a robocall incident. EC will inform electors of complaints mechanisms, will be more active on social media and will use public announcements and other communication channels.

Members inquired about provisions for electors to use electronic signatures for registration and provisions for parties to file signatures electronically. It was clarified that, in the future, there may be an option for parties to file returns electronically.

Technical Briefing on Bill C-23

Stéphane Perrault, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Regulatory Affairs, provided a technical briefing on changes to the Canada Elections Act that emerged out of Bill C-23, with a particular focus on a number of key changes since the ACPP last met.

The update concluded with information of the coming into force of the new legislation. The Commissioner of Canada Elections' move took place on October 1, 2014, and the rest of the Act will come into force on December 19, 2014. It was mentioned that the upcoming by-elections anticipated for the fall of 2014 will be administered under the old Canada Elections Act.

Discussion

Members asked about how the new provisions related to bequests will be implemented. The total limit to bequests is $1,500 as of January 1, 2015. After that date, only $1,500 in bequests would be accepted. This is a rigid cap and cannot be carried forward or split between two years.

There were questions about limits to campaign spending and whether the percentage of the tax credit for political contributions will be altered. While this is within the purview of the Canada Revenue Agency, the tax credit for political contributions has not changed. On leadership contestants' and candidates' ability to provide increased contributions to their own campaigns, the law now allows for a total of $5,000 in contributions, loans and loan guarantees to a candidate's own electoral campaign and a total of $25,000 in contributions, loans and loan guarantees to a leadership contestant's own leadership campaign.

Implementation of New Electoral Maps and Voter Registration Services

Michel Roussel, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events, led the discussion and provided a presentation on new voter services. He also introduced responsible Senior Directors, Duncan Toswell and Dani Srour.

Mr. Roussel mentioned that EC had met all obligations with regard to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, including appointing all returning officers (ROs) to the new ridings.

As a follow-up to the topic of voters list data management, Mr. Roussel mentioned that the law does not provide for EC to issue voters lists under the 2013 Representation Order until the call of a general election. However, by the end of winter 2015, ROs will have completed the validation of the boundaries of their polling divisions. EC will then be in a position to provide to parties voters lists data under the 2003 Representation Order, with a concordance table showing for each elector record the new electoral districts and polling divisions.

Schedule 3 of the Act

In the fall of 2013, EC erroneously indicated to the ACPP that Schedule 3 (large ridings where candidates are exempt from certain obligations) had to be published within seven months of the Representation Order being proclaimed, which would have been May 2014. It will actually come into force at the drop of the writ of the 42nd general election. However, EC will make it available to ACPP members in early summer 2015, since this list has practical implications for candidates preparing their nomination paper for the 2015 election.

Voter registration services

The presentation on voter registration provided background as well as data on the Register of Electors and described EC's move to a web-based registration system in 2015. A motivation behind changes to the registration system is to improve accuracy of the voters lists on election day. A discussion followed on the importance of ensuring that the voters list is current on election day to ensure a faster voting process for electors and to reduce opportunities for procedural errors.

Online registration will be available for the next election to any elector already known to EC, making it more convenient, particularly for young electors, to either update their address or add their name to the Register of Electors. Electors can already check the online system to confirm that their information is correct. A major outreach program will be implemented to increase registration, including door-to-door canvassing during the election.

Discussion

Members asked about student registration in other jurisdictions, particularly in Quebec, where registration rates are higher. Concerns were raised about low youth registration and voting; members asked whether EC could make the registration process easier, particularly through means such as automatic transfer of records through the health system. Voter information is provided by most provincial electoral management bodies and derived from different sources, each of which is collected with different consent rules.

Members voiced a concern that requiring a driver's licence to register online may prevent people from using the e-registration system, and asked if other pieces of identification (ID) could be used (e.g. provincial ID cards). Other than date of birth, the driver's licence is the only “shared secret” that EC has with electors, owing to agreements with provincial motor vehicles agencies (except for Quebec). Licence information can be used even if the licence is suspended or expired. EC may enter into conversations with the provinces on data sharing in the long term, but federal or provincial legislation may need to be changed to use data from more sources.

Members also commented on the potential for improvements in registration that may have resulted from civic education programs. The CEO responded that EC needs to educate primary and secondary students so they know about their responsibility, and then engage students when they turn 18. Some provinces are looking at registration for those under 18 that would be activated when they come of age to vote, so there are various alternatives. A key problem is that once an elector turns 18, they are outside of the school system, so it makes it difficult to track and find them at that point. EC is developing specific initiatives through the Electoral Reminder Program to address that young demographic.

It was also asked why EC does not have the full list from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CEO's responded that the CRA system is based on consent by the tax filer. To change this system to an automatic registration to ensure coverage would require legislative change. The CEO noted that 85 percent of tax filers do consent; outreach may close this gap, since tax preparation firms are not always aware of this option.

Voting Services

The presentation, led by Michel Roussel, discussed the functioning of polling stations at the next general election, and a particular emphasis on what will change from the last election. The key driver behind most changes is to respond to evolving voter expectations and to implement provisions in Bill C-23 and recommendations found in Neufeld's Compliance Review report. EC wants to see a reduction in observed procedural errors, as will be verified by the independent audit now mandated by the Canada Elections Act.

An important dimension discussed was the desire to have central poll supervisors (CPSs) report and resolve incidents as they occur, and to involve returning officers (ROs) as required.

New technology will not be introduced at polling sites for the next general election, and members should not expect any wholesale re-engineering of voting, but more modest improvements aimed at service convenience and enhanced quality assurance.

Vouching and the voter information card

For the next general election, there will be changes to the voter identification process. The voter information card (VIC) will not be allowed as identification in the next election. VICs will be mailed to electors to remind them to vote and to provide key information about how to vote. If an elector has no proof of address but has two pieces of ID, another elector can attest to their residence. Vouching will be replaced by an oath of residence. Electors with no proof of identity will not be able to vote.

Making voting more convenient

An additional day of advance poll voting will be implemented and more EC offices will be opened to make voting easier – on some campuses, at YMCAs and at Aboriginal Friendship Centres.

On polling sites, EC will triage electors. Those who are ready to vote (i.e. they are correctly registered on the list and have acceptable ID) will go straight to the polling station. This will streamline the process, thereby removing some of the pressures on deputy returning officers (DROs) to handle exceptional situations. All electors not ready to vote will go to registration officers for registration and ID issues. This triage function will be done by the information officer, who will no longer just be greeting voters.

The registration officer remains responsible for filling out registration certificates and is tasked with assisting electors with their attestation of residence, as needed. The DRO has authority over all transactions between the elector and the polling station. The DRO will have to review the completed forms and sign off; an added benefit is that the DRO will check the registration certificates, which embeds a form of compliance into the process.

The CPS is in charge of the polling site. For the next general election, the CPS is still in charge of site accessibility, but the role includes process quality assurance. This will be much clearer in the next election, as the duty of ensuring the quality of the documentation completed by poll clerks and others will be clearly spelled out.

Candidates and their representatives

The CPS will now be the main point of contact for candidate representatives at polling sites. Candidates' representatives used to register with the DRO, but now they will go through their authorization form with the CPS. This is something that parties have advocated for in the past.

On the role of scrutineers, it was explained that candidates and their representatives can examine ID, but they cannot handle ID. The law is clear on the rights of the scrutineers to see ID, but does not speak of consequences of an elector's refusal to show ID. If an elector refuses to show their information to a scrutineer on privacy grounds, the elector will still receive a ballot, but their refusal will be included in the poll book. This approach strikes a fair balance between the scrutineers' rights and electors' rights.

Communications devices will be permitted on site, but no photo, audio or video recording will be allowed.

Bill C-23 brought an important amendment pertaining to voting by special ballot. Now candidates can have scrutineers present at Special Voting Rules Expanded offices being established on campuses, community and friendship centers. At the last meeting when this was discussed, EC did not expect scrutineers to witness proceedings at these offices, but this guideline has changed.

Candidates and scrutineers will have more information from EC and ROs. Addresses of sites will be provided to candidates on Day 24, with regular updates as changes occur in a database, either by e-mail or other electronic formats. ROs will manage the transfer of this information to candidates. EC headquarters will also supply the parties' head offices with this information. It will be comprehensive and easy to use for parties and candidates.

“Bingo cards” used to be supplied every half hour, but for the next general election they will be provided every hour to candidate representatives, as this information is useful to campaigns. A copy of all bingo cards completed at the polls will be made available after election day to all candidates.

Discussion

Members had a lively discussion about balancing the rights of candidate representatives with the rights of voters who invoke privacy interests in not sharing ID with scrutineers. The risk of scrutineers slowing down lines at polling stations by checking all ID was raised by several members, and EC was asked how we may prevent this. The CEO responded that scrutineers have a right to request to see ID. If this has an impact on the flow at the polls, this will be addressed. If there is a systematic use of this right to slow down polls, it will be escalated to the CPS, and there will be an opportunity to engage with parties from EC's headquarters, if there is a perceived abuse. EC will take a range of measures to reconcile the two rights. 

Identification of Electors

Belaineh Deguefé, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Integrated Services, Policy and Public Affairs, provided some context on this issue for new members. He indicated that the Act provides for three options for identification of electors:

The Policy on Voter Identification was required to ensure coherence and consistency, to maximize accessibility and to make voting as seamless as possible. For example, electors can now display documents on a mobile device to show proof of address.

Members were shown an updated version of the new voter ID poster that will be used at the polls. It includes the list of 45 distinct pieces of ID. The principal changes to note are the addition of targeted revision forms, prescription containers and hospital identity bracelets in order to make the ID process clearer and simpler and to create greater accessibility for voters.

Discussion

There were several questions on the ID policy (proof of citizenship, temporary workers, etc.). It was clarified that there are few pieces of ID that show citizenship, and this is why you need to attest to your citizenship. A passport is one such document that can be used as identification, but is not a required document to vote.

It was confirmed that in general, a person in a work camp needs to vote in their home riding. Voters simply need ID to establish their residence. The definition is “place that you intend to return to” for residence. If a voter does not have another “ordinary residence,” they may be able to vote in the riding where they work.  

The CEO wrapped up the voter ID discussion by highlighting two main points. The first point was about the production of electronic documents on mobile devices: he mentioned that this applies only to documents produced electronically (i.e. no scans of other documents). The second point was about long-term care facilities. From time to time, administrators of long‑term care facilities fail to issue letters, so the revision form will be accepted as proof of residence for those living in long-term care facilities. Prescription containers were also added to the list of acceptable ID, to assist seniors who are dependent on third parties. This approach is already being used in some provinces.