Meeting Summary – Annual General Meeting – June 8, 2015
Michel Roussel, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events, discussed the overall conduct of the election, including the key items in service to candidates and electors, voting services, and accessibility to voting services.
Readiness – update
EC met in February with returning officers, assistant returning officers, and key personnel in local offices. They have been given all the documentation for conducting the election, except for a few policies and directives that still need to be sent.
Forms, manuals, equipment, applications and tools for the conduct of the election were updated following the last electoral reform. They are now either in place or ready to be delivered.
Testing on the new suite of applications to manage and integrate electoral lists with local offices, online registration and the production of the voter information cards has been completed, and results are positive.
Updated electoral lists and maps were provided in April; however, some changes and last-minute revisions are being made for certain voting sections. The definitive map of each electoral district, as well as the list of electors, will be provided to each candidate after the issue of the writs.
EC's deployment plan
Towards the end of August, EC will launch a recruitment drive for election officers on the web, and returning officers will call electoral district associations for names of potential election officers.
At the same time, EC will launch a voter registration drive, both on the web and on the ground, through flyers in targeted areas.
On September 1, returning officers will be instructed to lease and occupy their office, and EC will deploy materials and equipment. However, services to candidates and to voters cannot be offered until the writ period has begun.
Changes introduced by Bill C-23
- The bill offers candidates more opportunity to scrutinize the voter identification process for both special ballot and for ordinary and advance polling; this includes scrutineers' right to examine, but not handle, voters' identification documents.
- Polling location addresses will be provided to candidates and parties during the election.
- On election day, candidates' representatives will need to register only once to get access to all polling stations within their electoral district.
- After election day, bingo cards will be provided to candidates.
- Scrutineers will be allowed to take a picture of the bingo card completed at an advance poll once that poll closes.
- Parties are being asked to urge their candidates to file early after the writ is issued. Returning officers will offer a candidate the opportunity to re-submit if anything is missing. However, any incomplete nomination papers that are submitted on the deadline are rejected without a second chance. EC conducts administrative reviews when a candidate alleges having been unfairly treated by a returning officer.
Compliance, service and good record-keeping
EC is implementing the following changes in response to the Neufeld Report recommendations:
- The training program for election officers was rebuilt from scratch.
- The job description of central poll supervisor was enhanced with quality assurance functions.
- Voting operations were modified to take some pressure off the deputy returning officers and poll clerks.
- To attract and retain more competent officers, pay rates have been increased and basic skills tests are embedded in the online application form.
- Online voter registration was introduced as part of an effort to increase the currency of the voters list on election day and reduce the volume of exceptions to handle.
- The poll book has been revamped, and the written oath of residence was created. This puts more documentary evidence at the disposal of the Commissioner, a judge or an auditor after the election.
The process remains labour-intensive, paper-based, and therefore error-prone, although most errors will be of an administrative nature. While the added record-keeping requirements ensure that a polling station leaves a bigger body of evidence after election day, those requirements also create more opportunities for record-keeping errors. It is therefore prudent to expect a post-event audit to report lapses in record-keeping again. "Job performance" may remain an area of concern after the 42nd general election, and EC will still want to talk to ACPP members and to MPs about re-engineering this business model.
Voter registration services
In 2015, EC is working to maximize the currency of the voters list on election day – especially the names of young voters. The currency of the list is defined by the number of eligible electors, shown at their current address, that it contains. This is important, because it enables more accurate voter information cards at the call of the election and fewer electors needing to register at their polling station on election day. The priority is also to engage the younger generation to participate in elections, thus stemming the decline of voter turnout in the long term.
EC has introduced online registration in response to electors' evolving expectations. As of January 2015, electors can sign in to the National Register of Electors by providing a driver's licence number that matches what EC has on file for them. EC's online voter registration strikes a fair balance between convenience and control. While the service comes across as fairly accessible and easy to use, mechanisms are in place to monitor, detect and address abuses.
Accessibility of voting services – updates
Physical accessibility of polling locations:
- A national survey of the accessibility of polling places has been completed.
- EC is working with returning officers to deal with the remaining non-accessible locations (most are in Quebec).
Full information about the accessibility of each location will be publicized on EC's website during the election. The voter information card will advise voters about the accessibility of their polling places and whether they should check with their returning officer, particularly in the four percent of sites that do not meet the 15 barrier-free criteria.
- An improved voting screen and magnifier will be available for visually impaired voters.
- A copy of the list of candidates will be available in large-print format and in Braille at voting locations on election day.
- Visually impaired electors who want to use mobile apps to read their ballot may do so (though such apps were not available as of fall 2014, the market for them is growing).
Students, youth and urban Aboriginal people
- Registration and voting by special ballot will be offered at selected campuses, Friendship Centres and YMCAs.
- Fifty-six institutions (including 40 universities or colleges/CEGEPs) are expected to participate.
- The list of participating institutions will be publicly available and provided to the ACPP by mid-August.
- During the election, returning officers will publish the location within each of those facilities, along with the date and time of operation, on the EC website.
- Voting services will be offered according to the provisions of the law governing SVR voting at the returning office.
- Service will be offered during the week before advance polls open (October 5 to 8, 2015).
- Parties' representatives will be welcome to attend and scrutinize this process, according to the provisions of the law.
- All eligible voters may avail themselves of this service – it is not exclusive to students, youth or Aboriginal people.
ACPP members asked questions about the points of service that the additional offices on campuses will offer. EC is currently confirming locations with these institutions and signing contracts for the temporary spaces. Mr. Roussel noted that due to logistics, EC cannot add more campuses to its list for the upcoming election.
Clarification questions were asked regarding the rights of candidates' representatives to see ID, regarding the voters list, and regarding the data that EC keeps about electors who refuse to show ID to candidates' representatives. EC clarified that staff at the additional offices will have portable computers and access to the Internet to download the list of candidates relevant to each elector.