Meeting Summary – Annual General Meeting of June 13–14, 2013
New Voting Services Model for Federal Elections
Michel Roussel (Senior Director, Field Readiness and Event Management) provided an overview of the project and walked members through the new model. Three questions were posed to the group for discussion:
- Does everyone understand the proposed model? Is clarification needed?
- Any general feedback on the model on the whole?
- Initial feedback on the role of candidates' representatives in relation to:
- The candidate's representative (scrutineer) function at the polls?
- Proposed changes to the production and transmission of "bingo cards"?
Mr. Roussel was assisted by Sylvie Jacmain (Director, Field Programs and Services) and
Dawn Borutskie (Project Manager).
Several comments and questions were raised regarding the use of technology at the polls on election day. Mr. Roussel noted that one of the objectives of the pilot will be to test the use of technology and contingency strategies to deal with any issues that could arise. To ensure the integrity of the voting process during the pilot, the paper-based ballot system will still be used as one of these contingencies.
In response to an observation that some areas may have longer lineups at the full-service desk due to high mobility, language issues and so on, Mr. Roussel noted that under the new model, the number of full-service desks and the resources assigned to them can be increased to meet higher demand.
The new voting model pilot generated extensive discussion. The CEO indicated that the pilot will take place in a couple of electoral districts and that he has discussed the pilot briefly with the chairs of PROC and Legal and Constitutional Affairs. The plans call for a formal request to the two committees in order for Elections Canada to be ready to conduct a pilot in 2015. Criteria will be developed to select the electoral districts in which the pilot will be conducted. Mr. Roussel indicated that the purpose of the pilot is to ensure the model, which is based on the one used in New Brunswick, functions well in the federal context.
In response to a question about the use of the token in the new process, Mr. Roussel noted that the token may be a piece of paper or the voter information card stamped with the elector's polling division so that the elector receives the correct ballot for his or her polling division.
A number of questions were asked about electronic tabulation and how it would work in the new model. In response, Mr. Roussel made the following comments:
- The new system and technology need to be trusted by candidates and electors alike. Elections Canada will work to ensure stakeholders, including political parties, are comfortable with the technology before the election. The tabulation device will be tested extensively before the election, and some polls may have multiple tabulators, if necessary. The technology is becoming more familiar to people, as it is being used in some municipal and provincial elections.
- Ballots will still be marked by hand (a sample ballot was circulated to participants). The ballot will be carried in a special envelope and then slid into the tabulator.
- In terms of verification, votes could be checked by candidates' representatives after they are tabulated. The preliminary votes on election night would be based on tabulated reports.
- There will be some form of an awareness campaign once approval is granted for use of the system across the country.
In response to an idea to make the source code of the tabulation machines available publicly for testing, Mr. Roussel suggested that this be put forward when political parties are consulted on the new model and the roles of candidates and their representatives.
A number of questions were raised about the costs associated with the new model compared to the costs of an online voting system. Mr. Roussel noted that Elections Canada is putting together a feasibility study for parliamentarians that will compare the costs of the current model and the proposed model.
In response to a comment about online voting and turnout, the CEO noted that evidence shows no overall significant increase in turnout as a result of online voting. Most of the studies that Election Canada has reviewed conclude that any increase in turnout is minimal when online voting is introduced.
Questions were asked about the role of candidates' representatives in the new voting model. Mr. Roussel responded that they can be involved in the audit function. He added that specifics about the role of candidates' representatives will be discussed in more detail during workshops in fall 2013.
Other feedback on the new voting model provided by members:
- Electronic transmission of information on electors who have voted (bingo sheets) is a great advancement.
- It would be useful to access bingo cards in real time on the website.
- Previously, all of the parties had to go through all of the bingo cards in order to aggregate data. Now, the process is becoming automated. There is a possible danger of the data being traded with industry and used in an unexpected way. This is a concern because it creates a playing field that is not level.
- It would be useful to conduct counts of paper ballots as a back-up to electronic tabulation.
- In the current system, it is easy for candidates' representatives to monitor activities because they take place at the poll with the DRO; it may be more difficult for candidates' representatives to monitor in the new model because the process is separated into a number of different stations.