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Meeting Summary – Annual General Meeting – June 27–28, 2011

Feedback on the 41st General Election: Services to Electors

In an open forum, ACPP members were asked to provide their comments and questions regarding services to electors during the 41st General Election. A summary of key issues is outlined below.

Discussion with ACPP Members

An RO office was open until 9 PM, but the building it was located in was closed at 7 PM, making access more difficult.

Was the decision to not move further with the Assistive Voting Device (AVD) driven by costs? The CEO answered that the report on AVD was circulated to the ACPP and that the full report on the November By-Election is on the website. After consultations with over 10 disability organizations, they were of the opinion that the AVD device was not meeting their needs.

It was reported that an elector who lived at a location that was served by a mobile poll missed the opportunity to vote because the mobile poll was only available for a three hour period. The elector then tried to vote at a regular poll but was denied. Rennie Molnar replied that Elections Canada will investigate ways to address these specific issues.

A suggestion was made that the check box on the tax form that asks if Canadians are willing to share their address information with Elections Canada needs to be changed to allow the sharing of the residence address rather than the mailing address.

It was reported that some students at Carleton University were upset that they could not vote on campus. These students decided to vote twice, once by advance poll and then at the regular poll at their parents' address. What was put in place to encourage students to vote? Belaineh Deguefé replied that e-mail bulletins were sent to student organizations, and Elections Canada contacted student federations and made sure that they had information on ways to vote. Rennie Molnar indicated that ROs hire Community Relations Officers (CRO) to work with students and school administrators. Youth CROs are hired to provide information via posters and kiosks in university and college campuses. Joanne Boucher-MacNeil indicated that the email bulletins were sent to a much wider audience than in the past as student organizations pass on the bulletins to students directly. The CEO indicated that the Guelph vote was legal and that Elections Canada will engage the ACPP further in addressing student voting during the next election.

A question was asked relating to the legality of what the Conservative candidate did at the poll at the University of Guelph. The CEO replied that there had been no indication that the law was broken. The ballot box was not taken and the incident is being reviewed.

There was a further question as to the student vote participation rate. The CEO replied that specific data to analyze turnout by age is not yet available.

The Student Vote Program (in school parallel election program) was positively regarded by ACPP members. A question was asked about how the effectiveness of Student Vote is measured over the long term. The CEO replied that Elections Canada reviews the program to track the ongoing benefits. There was also a question about how teachers apply for the program. The CEO replied that Student Vote is delivered by a third party organization, and that any teacher can register. As well, Elections Canada communicates with teachers and schools, and makes educational materials available on the Student Vote and Elections Canada websites.

A suggestion that Canadians do not understand the proper function of government and that Elections Canada should develop a mandatory course in democracy for schools. The CEO replied that education is a provincial jurisdiction and that Ontario has mandated civics education program for grades five and ten. Elections Canada has worked with educators and Elections Ontario to develop the new curriculum and that a pilot program was launched during the election period. The new education materials are now being used, and an evaluation will be done. This program will expand to all schools in Ontario next year.

It was reported that some voters who were forced to travel at the last minute on voting day for instance, felt disenfranchised. The CEO replied that the Canada Elections Act would have to be changed to make allowances for this type of situation. It was also reported that there are still some barriers to voting, as some people did not have enough free time to vote after or before work. The CEO replied that employers are obligated to provide time for voting, and that most voters are not voting because of lack of convenience. Elections Canada needs to find ways to make it easier to vote.

There was a question of how Elections Canada deals with the issue of voter fraud, how people get caught and what the consequences are. The CEO replied that Elections Canada must not target specific groups and that there was no evidence of organized fraud activity. The CEO also indicated that there is a reconciliation process to identify potential double voting. If parties have a legitimate concern, the case should be referred to the COE, who will investigate.