Meeting Summary – Annual General Meeting – October 11–12, 2012
5) Elections Canada Roadmap to 2015: Key Initiatives
Michel Roussel (Senior Director, Field Readiness and Event Management) presented an overview of the major initiatives planned for the 42nd general election and opportunities for ACPP engagement. A copy of the presentation was provided to participants.
Theme 1 – Implementing New Boundaries
Questions about the process and timing for aligning polling divisions (PDs) with census blocks were asked. Clarifications provided by Mr. Roussel included:
- Previously, returning officers had to manually redraw polling divisions with the implementation of new boundaries to account for population changes – an intensive and time-consuming task. This work will now be simplified and initially completed by Elections Canada headquarters.
- The process of transposing the votes involves examining the results from each polling division and identifying what the results would have been under the new boundaries. This allows for the identification of the parties who would have placed first and second in the riding, required for the purposes of nominating DROs and poll clerks.
- The new maps and census data resulting from the realignment of boundaries will be available in 2014.
Although not its purpose, one result of the realignment of PDs with census blocks will be the availability of socio-demographic data at the PD level. While the data have always been publicly available from Statistics Canada, this process offers direct alignment without requiring further data manipulation. There was a difference of opinion regarding the value and potential applications of these data:
- Elections Canada noted this could be of use in designing field or outreach programming by both the agency and political parties, and will be of value to researchers. It also offers opportunities for smaller parties, which do not have the same resources as the larger parties to obtain this level of data.
- Several parties opposed this work, citing privacy concerns and the authority of Elections Canada to facilitate access to the data. Potential use of these data by political polities, namely for targeting specific geographic areas to the exclusion of others, was also cited as a concern. It was also felt that this could further shift voter contact from the public to the private sphere.
- Elections Canada will evaluate the need to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment as part of this initiative.
Theme 2 – Convenience Through Modern Services
Following the presentation, which included a description of the long-term vision for a live national voters list and technology at the polls for registering electors and striking them from the list electronically, a question was raised as to how electors who may have voted twice are currently identified, and what the consequences are. Noting that such cases are exceptionally rare, Mr. Roussel explained that a verification is completed following each election and any case of an elector found to have potentially voted more than once is referred to the Commissioner.
Theme 3 – Reducing Barriers to Registration and Voting
Questions and comments on this theme included:
- While expressing support for the initiative to place special ballot kiosks on school campuses, it was asked what would be done if elections were called outside or on the cusp of the academic year.
- While Elections Canada identified registration drives for students and Aboriginal electors as a new initiative for 2015, questions were raised regarding initiatives to target other potentially under-registered groups, such as tenants. The suggestion was made for greater enumeration, as was done in the past. Elections Canada noted that:
- There is a program in place since the creation of the National Register of Electors that targets high-mobility areas with door-to-door revision (called "targeted revision"). This often includes buildings with a high number of tenants; and
- Evidence suggests that national enumeration is no longer effective due to a combination of factors, including an increasing trend of electors not answering the door and increasing difficulty in recruiting staff for some areas.
Theme 4 – Preserving Trust and Improving Compliance
No comments or questions were raised regarding the two initiatives proposed to preserve trust and increase compliance, i.e. Implement Compliance Review Action Plan and Develop a More Effective Voting Service Delivery Model, which had been discussed earlier in the meeting. Elections Canada's decision to scale back efforts on Internet voting and to delay a pilot project until after the 2015 general election, however, resulted in an extensive discussion.
Members in favour of Internet voting cited its appeal to youth, high rates of Internet use among Canadians and the proliferation of online services. It was suggested that private firms may be interested in working with Elections Canada at reduced or no cost, in exchange for the opportunity to develop a system that they could then market globally.
Members opposed to Internet voting cited security concerns, cost, and an inability to confirm with certainty that a voter's ballot was submitted as intended.
The CEO outlined several other considerations behind the decision to scale back efforts on Internet voting at this moment in time. In addition to the significant costs of developing a system, the risks in developing a system that is secure and not susceptible to fraud remain too great at this time. Confirming the identity of electors is a key feature of the current process; without a universal authentication system (e.g. a national ID card), confirming the identity of electors would be a challenge. The CEO noted that in other online transactions, such as banking, Canadians have a vested interest in protecting their identity. Other significant issues requiring further examination include online vote-swapping or selling of votes. With regard to the suggestion of working with a private firm on developing a system at a reduced cost, the CEO noted that while cost is an important factor, maintaining the integrity of the system, for which the agency alone is responsible, is paramount.
The CEO, however, noted that the agency is committed to pursuing Internet voting post-2015. Elections Canada is monitoring the activities of other jurisdictions and continuing to consider future pilots (e.g. for military personnel overseas).