Meeting Summary – Post 42nd General Election Special Meeting – November 19, 2015
ACPP Members' Feedback on Services to the Public
ACPP members were invited to share their experience and comments on EC services to the public during the 2015 election.
ACPP members expressed their concerns about long line ups at advance polls. While it indicated interest in voting, some people left without casting their ballot. ACPP members were interested in knowing how that may be alleviated in the future. It was suggested that voters could start the process while waiting (e.g. by filling out a form), or that the size and number of advance polling stations could be increased, and that more voting stations could be added on site.
Special ballots on campus
Overall, ACPP members applauded this initiative and reported that students were enthusiastic to vote in their home riding. However, the long line ups meant that some students had to leave before they could cast their ballot. While this initiative was deemed innovative, the mechanics were an issue.
Changes to polling locations and on voter information cards
ACPP members noted that it seemed like there were a lot of polling location changes this year, which created confusion for voters. Some voter information cards (VICs) also had the wrong information, and while EC attempted to correct the issue by reprinting and resending, it left voters confused as to where to go.
Michel Roussel clarified the difference between a change of polling stations in between VICs and a change of location from a previous election. The former change did not increase from previous elections, while the latter did, in fact, increase. The number of changes in locations can be attributed largely to the redistribution of federal ridings. Some members nonetheless expressed dissatisfaction with the errors experienced.
Questions were also asked about EC's policy on how far a poll can be from electors' residence, which was an issue in some cases. Mr. Roussel shared an overview of the list of criteria that ROs use to select a polling location: accessibility, proximity, availability, etc.
ACPP members mentioned that they have seen a lot of reports in social media about people being turned away for lack of ID, when they had the right ID. For instance, some voters were asked for a photo ID or a driver's licence specifically.
On-site services to voters
There were concerns about polling stations not complying with their official hours of operation: in northern communities, some polling stations reportedly opened up to two hours late and also closed early.
ACPP members also mentioned reports of polling stations running out of ballots in some First Nations communities and were interested as to how that may be resolved in the future. It was explained that the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) allowed for ballots to be photocopied or transferred between polling stations, but some voters may have left because of the wait. The full extent of the impact of the shortages on the exercise of the vote remains unclear, but EC is committed to determining the extent and impact of the problem.
There were also reports of pre-marked ballots, and ACPP members were seeking an explanation. Michel Roussel informed members that EC is currently conducting official reviews on the lack of ballots on reserves, as well as pre-marked ballots, and asked parties to put all complaints in writing and formally send them to EC to help with investigation and so that appropriate action can be taken.
Questions were also asked about the pay and the training offered to staff and whether both factors could be improved to attract better applicants. Members' suggestions included more training sessions, the presence of trainers on site on election day, hiring more staff (especially to fill in during breaks), increasing pay and holding training sessions closer to election day.
It was noted that voting at a specific polling location seems like an unnecessary and obsolete restriction and that voters should be able to vote at any polling station within their riding. Mr. Roussel informed members that EC had proposed to test a system to vote anywhere in a riding in the past and that it plans to resubmit a proposal for Parliament to examine this.
There were also questions on the possibility of on-site online voting for the next election. Mr. Roussel assured members that EC has the infrastructure and the know-how to use more technology at polling places (e.g. computerized ballot counting). EC is open to studying the issue.
In most cases, returning officers' (ROs) expertise and services were acknowledged and appreciated, and there was a request to have an experienced RO present at a future ACPP meeting to answer members' questions.