Compliance Review – Interim Report – A Review of Compliance with Election Day Registration and Voting Process Rules
Reviewing identified causes for non-compliance, a reader may find themselves immediately thinking about related solutions. This was certainly a tendency during consultative sessions with review participants — any identified cause of non-compliance would immediately, spontaneously generate a list of ways to address it.
As might be expected, many suggested solutions pertain directly to more than one of the causal themes of non-compliance identified. For this reason, this review took efforts to find recurring "clusters" or solution themes.
Five themes for solution emerged in the review process:
- Simplify the process for electors and workers;
- Improve and clarify supervision;
- Improve recruitment and testing;
- Improve training and evaluation; and
- Use technology to more effectively manage information.
Specific solutions identified within each of these themes are discussed below.
For brevity's sake, the many different solutions that review participants identified and discussed are bullet-listed. Some were developed more fully than others during workshop sessions, but the intention here is to provide a similar level of detail for each distinct concept that was raised and generally agreed to have merit.
Not every specific suggestion has been included, but every general way to address causes of non-compliance that was identified and given credence in review discussion should be found in the next eight pages.
Simplify the Process for Electors and Workers
- Launch a formal project to redesign all election procedures, forms, guides and instructions:
- Design, or re-design procedures so they are extremely difficult to do wrong.
- Simplify, streamline and rewrite in simple-to-understand language.
- Undertake a "ruthless" evaluation of the tasks required of each election officer; remove anything and everything that is not related to rational requirements associated with protecting the integrity of the voting process; question every task and eliminate all those that are non-essential; amend the election law as needed:
- Create the legal ability to introduce a "triage" process at each polling location entrance: 1) "express" line, 2) "full service" line, 3) "redirection" information desk.
- Ensure most, and preferably all, voting "exception" cases are directed to specialist staff at "full service" desks.
- Introduce a legal requirement for a standard minimum number of election officer roles/positions at every polling location, including a poll supervisor.
- Ensure that each officer's role and their required interaction with other officers, and with electors, is made absolutely clear and communicated consistently.
- Widen the use of the Voter Information Card as a valid piece of address documentation; consider moving from a post card to a personally-addressed letter to provide all the essential information each voter needs in a clear layout.
- Ensure that clear messages about the need to bring required proof-of-identity and address documents to an assigned polling location are communicated to every eligible elector.
- Remove the legal requirement for each elector to state who they are and what their address is at the same time they are handing an election officer their personal identification documents; it defies common sense, is widely ignored, and much disliked by voters.
- Modify the legal requirement for Poll Clerks' completion of "bingo cards" (the form with the formal title "Statement of the Electors Who Voted on Polling Day") from every half hour to once an hour.
- Introduce a legal requirement to have each poll supervisor collect the "bingo card" forms and provide them to pre-authorized scrutineer "runners".
- Make sure written procedures and other written materials, such as forms and envelopes, are as simple and easy to understand as possible:
- Reduce, consolidate, simplify and standardize all written material.
- Use plain language targeted to the audience and not simply "parroting" what the law says.
- Use simple terms consistently.
- Employ the use of graphics and video creatively to communicate clearly how each process works.
- Colour-code all materials by process; e.g. red for registration, green for voting, blue for counting ballots.
- Provide examples of properly completed forms for election officers.
- Emphasise key points, for example using "stars" or "balloons".
- Develop simplified checklists that can be referred to outside of an election officer's manual (e.g. pocketsize).
- Use specialist information/communication expertise to assist with the design of key documents to ensure they meet the needs of a 'general public' audience (i.e. both electors and election officers).
- Test all procedures and training modules extensively before finalizing them:
- Plan to include testing in the "rebuild" phases, making confirmation through testing one of the requirements for accepting any significant changes to processes, materials or training prior to their release.
- Test changes at the various stages of development: for example, "design blueprint", "confirmation of process changes", "confirmation of materials and training".
- Use "real people" during testing, to get realistic and honest feedback on the quality of any proposed changes to processes, materials and training.
- Ensure instructions are "frozen" well before they need to be used and that no changes are introduced in the final months before an election.
- Evaluate the quality of processes, materials and training after each election:
- Question a statistically significant sample of election officers and electors on their experience with, and understanding of, specific procedures, materials and training.
- Decide which processes, materials or training components most urgently need attention; modify them as necessary, and test again.
- Commit to continuous improvement by repeating a "design, test and evaluate" methodology during each election cycle.
Improve & Clarify Supervision
- Redefine the role as truly being "in charge", with decision-making authority and responsibility for the quality of work at their polling location.
- Change the name of the Deputy Returning Officer to a "voting officer" and have each of them report only to the poll supervisor at their assigned polling location.
- Consider renaming the Central Poll Supervisor a 'Polling Site Supervisor'.
- Automatically add an assistant poll supervisor in locations with more than six polling stations; in very large polling locations have multiple assistant poll supervisors.
- Ensure poll supervisors are involved in overseeing exception cases (e.g. oaths) until election officers are fully capable and have mastered the associated procedures.
- Only appoint staff to this role who have previously worked in an election officer position and have a demonstrated ability to lead, direct and inspire others.
- Train poll supervisors in a dedicated session focused primarily on their role as a supervisor and reduce or eliminate the requirement for them to attend training for the various election officer positions.
- Have poll supervisors establish clear expectations management and messaging for all election officers; for example, in briefing of teams at polling sites prior to opening the doors to voters: "you will not be left to solve problems alone; requests for assistance will always be acted on; procedures need to be done correctly; expect your work to be checked".
- Have the poll supervisor or assistant poll supervisor do regular checks on pre-established measures and controls using well designed quality control sheets.
- Build clear supervisory procedures for the main transition steps (opening, public voting, counting, and closing); introduce the supervisors at training sessions; have the supervisors explain the procedural checks that will occur during Election Day activity while these officers are in training.
- Make clear who each poll supervisor reports to in the returning office; recognize that the Returning Officer cannot be the single authority that all supervisors escalate support requests to; consider allowing the Returning Officer to delegate poll supervisor support to the Assistant Returning Officer, Revision Supervisor, Training Officers, etc. for Election Day.
- Have training officers or other knowledgeable resources (e.g. Field Liaison Officers) do random checks at different polling locations and polling stations to measure quality and assess training success.
- Provide a central telephone/text "hotline" to call if difficult procedural or legal interpretation questions arise on Election Day that cannot be resolved by contacting the returning office; develop a formal body of knowledge regarding these situations and use it to inform policy or procedural adjustments required.
- Develop a checklist for each election officers' role; provide all checklists to the poll supervisor to refer to when assisting and advising their officers.
- Offer specialized training to candidate representatives; encourage these trained scrutineers to raise objections with the poll supervisor if procedural errors are being made by election officers they are observing; ensure poll supervisors are seen, by scrutineers and the public, to be the authority for all that occurs at their polling location.
- Consider paying for at least one scrutineer from each party running candidates in the electoral district to be present at each polling location within the district; provide training to these paid scrutineers so they fully understand the compliance requirements associated with the procedures they are scrutinizing.
- After each general election, comprehensively measure compliance on a polling location level, and consider providing monetary bonuses, or other forms of recognition, to a small number of poll supervisors who managed the sites that provided the very best overall compliance scores per region and nationally.
Improve Recruitment and Testing
- Develop a solid understanding of why people are motivated to become election officers, and take steps to meet those expectations; learn, as well, about the reasons why some election officers refuse to work at subsequent events.
- Leverage the opportunities associated with a fixed election date in 2015, and commit to opening the returning offices and hiring at least two professional recruitment officers in every electoral district well in advance of the election campaign period.
- Legally eliminate the process of candidates from the two leading parties nominating election officers; encourage all parties and candidates to refer interested persons to apply online or at the local returning office for potential employment in the election; hire election officers purely on the basis of merit.
- Review pay scales for election officers used at all jurisdictional levels; encourage the Treasury Board to appropriately increase the pay levels, in the official Tariff of Fees, for all election officers to at least exceed minimum wage requirements and provide "fair" compensation differentials to different positions based on their level of responsibility for compliance; provide monetary incentives for experienced election workers to return in subsequent elections.
- Recruit early for all positions; prepare to manage the comparatively pleasant problem of having more qualified applicants than available positions; prevent having Returning Officers needing to contemplate "mirror test" hiring methods.
- Provide screening tools and effective guidelines for recruitment officers to apply in selecting workers; ensure all potential staff are required to pass a competency test before being sent to training; make sure they are all appropriately tested after training and before assignment; consider a strict 90 percent pass rate being necessary for compliance-critical election officer positions; prevent assigning persons to any election officer position if they do not pass post-training tests on procedural knowledge requirements.
- Call back past good workers; recognize good performers; build a base of solid, experienced personnel in making early assignments for every polling location.
- Aim to attract more youth/student workers; consider an ambassador-style program and leverage internet/social media communications.
- Advertise for election officers in public spaces; on local media; on government hiring websites.
- Encourage media representatives, political party officials, constituency office officials and candidate campaign office volunteers to refer people interested in working at the election to complete an online application for election officer positions.
- Take steps to professionalize the elections workforce in collaboration with provincial and territorial election agencies; develop a shared database of election officers and maintain an ongoing communication with these individuals to keep contact information current and advise them of pending election work opportunities, electoral procedural and policy developments, etcetera.
- Consider introducing a "certification" program for federal election workers based on passing tests and successfully acting in an election officer position and obtaining the poll supervisor's commendation; use this certification to recognize good officers; hire first on the basis of certification at subsequent events.
- Consider introducing a tax credit for election officers who are certified and have worked at a federal election during the taxation year.
- Consider legal amendments to move Election Day to a Saturday to provide access to a much larger pool of potential election workers.
Improve Training and Evaluation
- Adopt best practice adult teaching models for training.
- Develop a short but highly effective training module on the importance of each election officer's role; how the whole process of the election depends on standard activities repeated in every polling location; what the basic integrity safeguards are to prevent unqualified persons from voting, or anyone voting more than once; how key democratic principles regarding the secrecy of the vote, transparency and accountability are demonstrated in the procedures to be followed; and ensure every election officer receives this training before starting their assigned role.
- Establish a baseline of training information which must be successfully communicated for each election officer role.
- Test the planned training program on "real people"; do not establish what the minimum required length of training must be until measuring how long it takes test groups to meet basic knowledge requirements.
- Comprehensively review training materials and procedures; update, simplify and rewrite in consistent language at a Grade eight comprehension level; check consistency within and between modules; check consistency with all other written materials provided to election officers.
- Minimize the need for training officers to "re-invent" training materials to meet their needs; require that a core set of information components is delivered in every Electoral District in a consistent way.
- Monitor training as it happens and ensure that it is being delivered effectively and consistently.
- Split election officer training into a pre-class mandatory component with online (or DVD) tutorials, followed by an in-class session with a professional trainer that feature extensive hands-on simulation of what will actually happen on Election Day.
- Recognize that three hours of class training is an absolute "saturation point" for detailed in-class procedural training of election officers; additional training should be self-directed and compensated (with appropriate accountability mechanisms used).
- Focus election officer training primarily on "regular voting" except for poll supervisor and registration officers; focus registration officer training on the efficient use of technology provided to search and update registration records rather than creating unnecessary registration certificates; focus poll supervisor training on every type of "exception" voting and all related procedures, oath and documentation requirements.
- Ensure all trainers have at least some practical experience and understanding of what the reality of being an election officer is; do not hire training officers only on the basis of their training qualifications.
- Establish professional training facilities in each electoral district and at Elections Canada's headquarters; cultivate a cadre of professional election training officers; supply each facility with standard audio visual equipment and 'mock polling place' props to be used for hands-on training demonstrations, role-playing and procedural practice.
- Use training officers as quality control assessors during Election Day; have them provide structured feedback on areas where training needs to be improved; use these training officers to identify the most effective methods to achieve training improvements.
Use Technology to More Effectively Manage Information
- Start introducing computerized systems at voting locations to provide more reliable mechanisms for enforcing, as well as measuring, compliance (e.g. registration software application requiring all mandatory fields to be completed with valid data).
- Allow voters to register online (not only update) at the Elections Canada website.
- Improve the online recruitment form processing and support system; use it as the basis for developing an ongoing database of Canadian election workers.
- Have the Returning Officer and a Revision Supervisor use analysis tools to review the list of electors at regular intervals between elections and develop a robust revision plan based on the unique address updating and first-time registration requirements associated with their electoral district.
- Provide pre-loaded laptop computers (or tablets, or netbooks) to Registration Officers in every polling location so they can look up already registered voters and efficiently update their information; use the same technology to accurately and efficiently redirect voters who show up at the wrong voting location; use the "standalone" data collected by each Registration Officer to efficiently and accurately update the National Register of Electors following each election.
- Develop web-based training, procedures support and testing for all election officer (and other) positions.
- Issue all procedural manuals electronically; allow them to be printed locally if required; encourage election officers to load them on their smartphones, tablets, computers or whatever new technology becomes available; make these documents quick-and-easy to navigate through or search within.
- Modernize the current information systems used by Elections Canada headquarters and field management personnel; extend the use of these systems in returning offices during elections; install computer and communications technology in advance of the campaign period for the 2015 election; ensure access to the "live" electronic lists of electors for both revision and post-election updating.
- Use web-based questionnaires to obtain detailed, analytics feedback on recruitment, training, supervision, procedural issues and the outstanding concerns of all election officers within the first few days following each Election Day assignment.
- Introduce more extensive data analysis to make continual process improvements based on collecting unfiltered data from election workers.
- Commit to modernizing the voting process in a steady, evolutionary process; methodically increase the use of modern computer and communications technology to support and eventually conduct the voting process; be transparent and consultative in this process with the public; engage key stakeholders in the development process; recognize that the current voting services model is not sustainable.
- Consider adopting the "bank teller" approach to voting services used in New Brunswick provincial and municipal elections; have voters "check-in" with officers equipped with computers; allow voters to feed their own paper ballots into an electronic scanning device after they have voted; have the scanning machine computer calculate and print out the voting results immediately after voting closes; keep the paper ballots in case of technology failure or a judicial recount.
- Consider moving to an exclusively "vote-by-mail" approach similar to what has been successfully introduced in the American states of Oregon and Washington; position this move as an interim step allowing an evolution to internet-based voting once authentication and security issues are resolved.
- Consider a pilot project aimed at proving that secure, internet-based web and telephone voting can be successfully introduced for federal elections in Canada; orient the program to the objective of having electronic voting become an alternative voting option by 2020.