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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.

Discussion

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:

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:

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:

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).