Compliance Review – Interim Report – A Review of Compliance with Election Day Registration and Voting Process Rules
Approaches to Implementing Compliance Improvement
Given the wide range of ways identified to improve compliance, it became clear to the Reviewer very early on that a formal recommendation to the Chief Electoral Officer must focus on articulating a limited range of measures that provides the best opportunities to significantly improve compliance in the time available before 2015 election arrangements must be finalized.
It also became clear that different participants started with very different conceptual frameworks to judge what they thought could and should be done to improve compliance.
Some assumed that modifying electoral legislation would simply be impossible in the short timeframe available. They would suggest that amending the Canada Elections Act would require a minimum of a year to introduce, and another year to steer through the stages of political debate and amendments before they could be passed into law. Persons with this view would point to the Supreme Court decision on Etobicoke Centre as not having provided any impetus for electoral policy changes, and they would give examples of the very slow evolution of electoral laws in Canada. Members of this group were emphatic that changes had to be limited to "tuning" existing administrative arrangements for the best possible outcomes in improving compliance.
Others, respectfully disagreeing with the first group, would argue that the Etobicoke Centre court case is a "wake-up call", and that parliamentarians would be highly receptive to the Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations for legislative change. They would advocate further that a positive political consensus would develop quickly, at least for a limited number of sensible administrative adjustments to the highly prescriptive procedural arrangements that current electoral law sets out for Election Day registration and voting. Given some political priority, they would contend, such adjustments could be easily passed into law within six months. This group believed that recommendations for effective change would need to include "modifying" the current law's administrative framework, while keeping the familiar features of the voting services model that has seen use in Canada for more than a hundred years.
Members of the third group were bolder. They fundamentally disagreed with the idea that simply fine tuning the administration procedures and law could significantly improve procedural compliance to the level needed. They would argue that the Canada Elections Act requires a major overhaul to meet the challenge of ensuring procedural integrity in federal elections. The current model for delivering Election Day voting services is broken, they would say, and Canada needs a new model that is modern, has compliance built-in by design, and delivers all the needed electoral integrity safeguards while greatly improving the level of service to the electorate.
Members of this third group called for "re-designing" how voting processes should work for the future.
There are, of course, many different solution options available within each of these three general approaches to making changes associated with improving compliance.
The following briefly describes what each approach might include as the basis of a recommended path for changes needed to improve the procedural compliance of election officers.
This approach assumes no changes to legislation.
It would allow significant improvements to forms, manuals and all written instructions. To the maximum extent permitted by the current election law, procedures could be simplified.
Limited improvements to supervision arrangements could be made, and the role of Central Poll Supervisors could be clarified beyond current norms.
Recruitment methods for election officers could be reworked and improved extensively. As well, potential poll workers could be administered some form of skills testing before they are selected.
Training methods could be overhauled and modernized completely, according to best practices in adult education and procedural learning. This could include institutionalizing the evaluation of both those being trained and those doing the training.
Technology could be implemented to support and improve voter registration in polling locations on Election Day.
This approach would allow implementation of all the opportunities to improve recruitment, training and the use of technology outlined in the "tune" approach above.
In addition, this approach assumes legislative changes can be made to simplify procedures and improve the structure of registration and voting services. However, it contemplates no fundamental changes to the voting service model.
The approach expects that procedures written in the law with regards to integrity safeguards could be rationalized, streamlined and made more efficient for both electors and election officers.
"Modifying" could address elections officers' structure of responsibilities, and formalize a new chain-of-command. Every voting location could be required to have a supervisor in charge. All voting sites could be staffed with an information officer and registration officer. Every officer could be hired on the basis of merit.
Roles of election officers standardized for every voting location in the country could simplify training procedures and clarify supervision.
All the opportunities for improving recruitment and training involved in the "modify" or "tune" approach would be available in the "re-design" approach.
In addition, this approach assumes that legislation can be changed to introduce a new model for providing voting services in federal elections in Canada.
With it, a number of different "re-design" approaches are open:
- the "bank teller" model, based on New Brunswick's successful approach to conducting provincial and municipal elections;
- the "vote-by-mail" model based on approaches successfully implemented in the states of Oregon and Washington; or
- an "internet voting" model, that would permit electronic voting by web or by phone, perhaps based on approaches successfully implemented in Estonia.
In each case, legislative and operational design could keep procedures simple for both electors and officials while ensuring integrity safeguards prevent duplicate voting, or voting by unqualified persons.
Clear roles for each officer within well-defined reporting and supervisory structures could also be made integral to that design.
Perhaps the greatest opportunities a "re-design" can offer for improved compliance would come from applying modern information technology. Particularly compared to humans hired to work at an unfamiliar task for a single day, properly programmed computers are exceedingly capable of executing detailed instructions and complex processes accurately.
Developing and distributing this interim report marks a milestone in the Compliance Review project.
The next major milestone will be to create and submit the final report, containing the Reviewer's recommendations to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.
In the process of preparing the final report, the Reviewer will collect and assess the input received from participants responding to the content and options presented in this interim report.
The final report will be submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer in mid-March after which Elections Canada's senior decision-makers will prepare a "management response" to address the recommendations made and outline their plan of action for improving compliance. All recipients of this report will automatically receive a copy of the Compliance Review final report with the management response accompanying.
The final report and the accompanying management response are expected to be distributed to all persons involved with the review by the end of April, 2013. They will also be made available to the public at that time.