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Best Practices for Ensuring Compliance with Registration and Voting Procedures

1.0 Introduction

On May 18, 2012, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued a ruling that declared the May 2, 2011, federal election of the member of Parliament for the electoral district of Etobicoke Centre to be "null and void." That election had been won by a margin of only 26 votes, as established in a judicial recount decided on June 15, 2011. On May 28, 2012, the sitting member of Parliament appealed the Ontario Superior Court decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, which heard the case on July 10 but reserved its judgment. The Supreme Court eventually ruled to uphold the election result.

In response to these events, which fostered some unease among the Canadian public, Elections Canada initiated a comprehensive review of procedures used on election day and at advance polls. The review aims to determine the factors that might contribute to administrative errors and what may be done to minimize these errors, from both an administrative and legislative perspective.

As part of this review, a comparative study was undertaken with national and international electoral management bodies (EMBs) and international experts to gain insights on practices and initiatives aimed at ensuring that poll staff comply with voting and registration procedures. The objectives of this study were to:

Accordingly, three research areas were identified for this study:

Efforts to innovate or streamline registration and voting processes may be staff-centric, in that their primary goal is to reduce or simplify staff responsibilities, or elector-centric, with the main objective of making processes more "voter-friendly." In either case, effective measures can reduce administrative burdens, increase proficiency and minimize the likelihood of deviations.

In view of the various methodological considerations explained later in this report, this study should be considered exploratory in nature and results should be interpreted with some caution. In addition, because of considerable variations among national and international jurisdictions in terms of electoral systems, political cultures, demographics and voting infrastructures, it is not possible to determine whether a practice shown to be effective in one context would be equally so in another.

This report is divided into five sections. Section 2 provides a literature review on the issue of compliance. Section 3 provides an account of the national consultations conducted with Canadian provincial and territorial EMBs. Section 4 presents the findings from consultations with international EMBs and electoral expert members of the ACE Practitioners' Network. Section 5 concludes with the overall findings.

Note: Abbreviations (Canadian Provinces and Territories)

NL Newfoundland and Labrador
PE Prince Edward Island
NS Nova Scotia
NB New Brunswick
QC Quebec
ON Ontario
MB Manitoba
SK Saskatchewan
AB Alberta
BC British Columbia
YT Yukon
NT Northwest Territories
NU Nunavut