Meeting Summary – Post 42nd General Election Special Meeting – November 19, 2015
Introductory Remarks and Debrief on the Conduct of the Election by the Deputy Chief Electoral Officers
Belaineh Deguefé, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Integrated Services, Policy and Public Affairs (DCEO ISPPA), welcomed members of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties (ACPP) to the Post 42nd General Election Meeting. He recognized newly registered political parties and participants for whom this was their first ACPP meeting.
Debrief on the Conduct of the Election
Michel Roussel, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events (DCEO EE), gave ACPP members an overview of the conduct of the last general election.
The DCEO EE mentioned that although the official turnout (established at 68.5%) is not yet final, Canadians voted in greater numbers than they have for over 20 years. It seems that this increase strained the old business model of voting services, especially at advance polling stations. We need to assess the long-term sustainability of how we administer the voting process. In general, how we offer our services, especially voting services, does not always meet Canadians' expectations in terms of accessibility, speed and efficiency.
The governing party has identified an extensive electoral reform agenda. Elections Canada (EC) needs to be prepared to contribute its technical expertise to the discussions about this agenda. EC will also review the conduct of the election with a variety of stakeholders to recommend key elements to modernize the electoral process and improve the administration of future elections. As part of its normal practice, EC is currently fielding surveys seeking the feedback of electors and candidates.
EC must conclude its own analysis on the last election quickly, with input from key stakeholders, to be able to contribute changes to improve service to electors and candidates.
Observations from the 42nd general election – Voting operations
1. Voting Services
EC's first foray into introducing technology to support services to voters was a success: the agency set up 486 offices with improved connectivity and IT services, plus another 76 locations offering special ballot voting services on campuses. These advancements have provided EC with the IT basis to support further steps towards automating electoral services at places such as advance or ordinary polling stations. EC believes that voters are ready for such changes and expect greater modernization of services.
More than 1 million confirmations and 300,000 registrations or address changes were made online, compared with some 485,000 registrations at local offices. More importantly, e-registration was the channel of choice for voters 18 to 44 years old. This contributed to the quality of the list of electors.
Voting process/procedures at the polls
Polling place voting is increasingly complex and challenging to administer, especially at advance polling stations. It lacks efficiency and does not match Canadians' expectations of services or stakeholders' expectations of record quality.
EC raised the need for a different operational model in 2012, including the re-engineering of the functions/processes and the computerization of the voter's list, poll book and ballot-counting operations. The case for this transformation is strengthened by what we saw at the last election. For example, bringing technology to the polls could transform the voting experience by allowing electors to vote at any polling station in their riding.
Special ballot on campus
Some 72,000 young electors used this service. EC needs to assess the efficiency of the service provided before deciding whether this service can be expanded across the country.
2. Communications with electors
EC revamped its communications program from the bottom up through the Electoral Reminder Program, offering a redesigned suite of products in plain language and multiple formats and working with non-governmental organizations to share this information widely. Additionally, EC communicated extensively via social media and also developed products that other groups could distribute, which were in tremendous demand.
The impact of social media was striking: EC was able to push out communications (information) to electors and gather intelligence on the election and how it was going (e.g. when a server was malfunctioning). Teams were monitoring keywords in social media, which allowed EC to respond quickly. Limitations: there were no systems to track the length of lineups, which would be useful to know so the agency could anticipate a corresponding delay in the counting of results.
3. Voter identification policy
EC is awaiting the results of a survey of electors on the specific topic of voter's proof of identity and address at the polls. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the regime, especially the exceptions relating to the proof of address, is cumbersome to administer in a consistent manner and in some situations may create administrative barriers to voting.
4. Election workers' job performance and working conditions
An audit of election workers' performance is mandated by law and is being carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). Results will be published in spring 2016.
Given the complexity of our voting process, and in light of the anecdotal evidence collected on election day, EC suspects that much will remain to be done. The staffing model was changed and the training was improved to better deal with procedures and compliance at the polls. Due to a prescriptive Canada Elections Act (CEA), many election workers must deal with difficult working conditions, which have a negative effect on recruitment.
Observations from the 42nd general election – Service to political parties/candidates
Provision of polling place data to candidates and parties
This was the first time that comprehensive and updated polling place address information was shared with political parties, with updates circulated via e-mail. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most political parties struggled with integrating the frequent updates to polling place addresses.
Provision of list of electors data to candidates and parties
We are aware that there were issues with some returning offices delivering the candidates' list in print file format instead of database format, which is regrettable and should be remedied in the next election.
Facilitating the work of the scrutineers
Scrutineers have a very important function in our democratic system; they bring a unique perspective to voting operations. EC wants to know what political parties heard and learned during the vote, and whether they feel that EC staff fully respected their scrutineers' rights under the law, particularly the right to:
- watch over special ballot voting at returning offices
- examine voter ID documents at a poll
- receive a copy of all the bingo cards completed at a poll on election day, or
- take a picture of the bingo card completed at an advance poll
The nomination process for candidates
The long writ period meant that parties' candidates had ample time to prepare their papers. This showed in the fact that returning officers had to deal with much fewer last-minute, frantic and incomplete applications. EC is commissioning a survey of the candidates on these and other questions.
Following the DCEO EE's introduction and debrief, ACPP members expressed their appreciation of the overall conduct of the election and posed questions regarding the 2015 election feedback form.
Members also asked about complaints and the number of people who reported experiencing barriers to voting due to identification. Michel Roussel noted that EC proactively asked Canadians to provide their feedback on all aspects of their voting experience through a variety of new channels of communication. Engagement with EC across all channels was significantly higher, including complaints. No clear evidence is available yet about people who experienced barriers because of voter identification, but EC conducted post-election surveys and will report on this aspect in late spring 2016.
The DCEOs were also asked if EC would be in a position to administer the next election with a potentially different election system, to which they replied that it would be premature to speculate on the content of any reform at the moment, but obviously EC's duty is to administer the CEA as enacted by Parliament.