Electoral Insight – Readjustment of Federal Electoral Boundaries
Electoral News in Brief
Seven May Federal By-Elections
Un membre du personnel aux élections partielles de Windsor-Ouest pose les étiquettes sur les cartes d'information de l’électeur.
By-elections were held in seven federal electoral districts, located in five provinces, on May 13, 2002. They were required to fill vacant seats in the House of Commons following a January Cabinet shuffle and the appointment of two members of Parliament to the Senate in late March. The vacant seats included those previously held by former Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray (Windsor West, Ontario) and former Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance leader Preston Manning (Calgary Southwest, Alberta). The seven by-elections were the most to be held on the same day since 15 occurred on October 16, 1978, following vacancies in the House of Commons that had accumulated since June of the previous year. In more recent years, the previous largest number of simultaneous by-elections was six, which were held on March 25, 1996.
Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley issued five of the by-election writs on March 27, 2002. This resulted in a campaign period of 47 days in the electoral districts of Windsor West (Ontario), Saint Boniface (Manitoba), Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel (Quebec), Bonavista—Trinity—Conception (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Calgary Southwest (Alberta). The additional writs were issued on April 7, 2002, following two resignations from the House of Commons. The by-election period in the districts of Gander—Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles (Quebec) was 39 days.
The Liberal Party of Canada retained, by wide margins, four of the six seats it previously held. In the electoral district of Saint Boniface, the victorious candidate was Raymond Simard. The district of Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel was won by Massimo Pacetti. In Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, John R. Efford was the victorious candidate. Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles was won by Liza Frulla.
Stephen Harper, the Leader of the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance, became the Leader of the Official Opposition with his victory in Calgary Southwest. The Liberal Party of Canada and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada did not nominate by-election candidates in that district. The New Democratic Party candidate, Brian Masse, captured Windsor West, while Progressive Conservative Party of Canada candidate, Rex Barnes, won the district of Gander—Grand Falls.
The voting results gave the governing Liberal Party of Canada 170 of the 301 seats in the House of Commons, two fewer than it held before the vacancies that led to the by-elections.
Voter turnout at by-elections is usually significantly lower than at general elections. In the seven by-elections, it ranged from a high of 44 percent in Windsor West to a low of 23 percent in both the Quebec district of Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel and the Alberta district of Calgary Southwest.
Elections Canada conducted several pilot projects during the by-elections. It provided the returning officers with more detailed demographic data to use in revising the lists of electors. This assisted in identifying, in particular, high-mobility sectors as well as new residential districts and institutions housing electors. Another pilot project involved the use of direct deposit to provide faster payments to the election officials who worked on polling day in the by-election districts. Payments to polling day workers were issued within a few days of polling day and returning officers and election staff were pleased with the quick service. With a participation rate as high as 94.4 percent in one district, the project was declared a success and will become part of the payment process in all returning offices.
Agreement on Shared Source of Elector Registration and Geography Information in Ontario
For many years, the registration of electors in the province of Ontario has been a common topic of discussion between Elections Canada, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and Elections Ontario. At a meeting on May 29, 2002, the President and Chief Administrative Officer of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada and Ontario's Chief Election Officer agreed to commit their combined resources to move toward a shared source of elector registration and geography information in Ontario.
It is expected that this co-operation will lead to the integration of name, address and geography information to meet the needs of all three partners through "living" databases and ultimately reduce the cost of elections to taxpayers.
Individually, the three partners identify electors for federal, provincial and municipal elections in the province. By sharing their skills, knowledge and resources, it is expected that election administrators at the three levels in Ontario will be able to derive increased value from their activities and provide improved products and services to electors, candidates, political parties and municipalities.
In the short-term, through to 2003, each partner will be preparing for the next electoral event in its jurisdiction. The focus of cooperation during this period will be in areas that will enhance election event readiness for federal, provincial and municipal purposes. A second level of activity, to occur from 2004 to 2006, will be directed toward expanding coordinated processes.
Each organization has committed that staff with the relevant skills will be made available, that necessary information and data will be accessible and, most importantly, that they will undertake the necessary financial commitments to achieve these joint objectives.
National Register of Electors Advisory Committee
The National Register of Electors (NRoE) Advisory Committee held its fifth meeting on April 12, 2002, in Ottawa. The meeting was the first to involve a membership newly expanded to include the Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) of all provinces and territories.
The expansion came about in response to the growing success of Elections Canada's partnerships with other jurisdictions in the NRoE program. The membership of all CEOs allows the Advisory Committee to discuss issues and initiatives of interest to all jurisdictions and data suppliers, to highlight new and existing partnerships, and to encourage co-operation.
Accordingly, partnership was one of the major themes of the day. The Committee heard from the Chief Election Officer of Ontario, and the Chief Electoral Officers of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the Clerk of the City of Winnipeg (representing the Federation of Canadian Municipalities) on their experiences with Elections Canada and other jurisdictions. Overall, the experiences underlined the mutual benefits of electoral co-operation.
The day's highlights included a detailed update of all NRoE maintenance activities since the October 2001 meeting and demonstrations of both the Returning Officer List Review System and the Commission Redistricting Tool (in use by federal electoral boundary commissions for the decennial redistribution). The day closed with a discussion of the challenges of getting Canada's youth registered and more involved in the electoral process, as well as the strategies and approaches some members have used in an attempt to do so.
The next NRoE Advisory Committee meeting will take place in November 2002.
Advisory Committee of Returning Officers to the Chief Electoral Officer
Elections Canada has created an advisory committee of returning officers to the Chief Electoral Officer with the aim of ensuring a continuous high level of service to electors and election candidates. The creation of such a committee was one of the major recommendations to emerge from consultations between Elections Canada and returning officers in Ottawa in May 2001. The Committee complements the existing mechanisms used to consult the returning officers on a regular basis.
The Committee's mandate is:
- to bring forth to the Chief Electoral Officer suggestions for improving and enhancing systems, procedures and programs, to ensure consistent quality and levels of service to electors and candidates across Canada;
- to bring forth and present the returning officers' points of view and suggestions on various matters, whether operational, administrative or other, based on each member's region, province and electoral district;
- to share information from Elections Canada with other returning officers from surrounding districts as per the geographical representation list provided to each member of the Advisory Committee; and to obtain the suggestions and viewpoints of these returning officers and share them with the Advisory Committee members.
The Advisory Committee of Returning Officers is made up of 17 returning officers representing every region, and selected on merit after an open competition. The term of appointment for members of the Committee began in September 2001 and is to conclude after the meetings that follow the next national electoral event. The Committee met on June 13 and again on September 19 and 20.
Meanwhile, on June 14, the Committee met in a joint session, for the first time, with the Advisory Committee of Political Parties. Their agenda included the National Register of Electors and communication between candidates and returning officers. It was an important opportunity for both groups to share their concerns and solutions for tasks they perform together during an election.
Courts and the Law
Cases Affecting Election Administration
Sauvé v. Canada – The Supreme Court of Canada heard the appeal on December 10, 2001, but has not released its judgement. As a person serving a sentence of more than two years in a correctional institution, Sauvé was ineligible to vote at the 1997 elections pursuant to paragraph 51(e) of the former Canada Elections Act [paragraph 4(c) of the Act adopted in 2000]. The Federal Court of Appeal had held that this provision infringed the right to vote in section 3 of the Charter. Nevertheless, the limit on section 3 was held to be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society, and therefore not unconstitutional. Further, the Court had held that the contested provision did not infringe the Charter's equality rights in section 15.
Figueroa v. Canada – The Supreme Court of Canada granted leave to appeal and the case is to be heard on November 5, 2002. The Ontario Court of Appeal had previously decided that the provisions of the Canada Elections Act requiring a political party to endorse a minimum of 50 candidates at a general election to qualify for registration were constitutional. Further, the Court had ruled that the requirement that a party field a minimum of 50 candidates at a federal election to have its name on the ballot was contrary to section 3 of the Charter, and that this limit on the right to vote was not demonstrably justified. To correct the latter, Parliament adopted changes to the Act in 2001 (Bill C-9).
Société des Acadiens et des Acadiennes du Nouveau-Brunswick v. Canada – This case never proceeded to a full hearing on its merits, and on May 7, 2002, a notice of discontinuance was filed. The Société was challenging the constitutionality of the electoral boundaries for New Brunswick in the 1996 Representation Order, arguing that they infringed section 3 of the Charter by not ensuring effective representation for the province's Acadian community, and section 15 by discriminating against the French-speaking population. At the start of the 1997 elections, the Société had applied for an injunction to prevent the new boundaries from being applied, but the application had been unsuccessful.
Harper v. Canada – On May 9, 2002, the Alberta Court of Appeal heard the appeal from the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench. The latter had decided that section 350 of the Canada Elections Act imposing limits on third-party advertising during election campaigns was contrary to the Charter's guarantees of freedom of expression, and that section 351 prohibiting collusion between third parties to circumvent the limits was contrary to freedom of association. Nevertheless, the Court had upheld other challenged provisions requiring the registration of some third parties, and the submission of returns. The Court of Appeal has not yet rendered its decision.
Russow and the Green Party of Canada v. Canada – A Notice of Application was filed in Ontario Superior Court on May 1, 2001, challenging the constitutionality of the first-past-the-post system in federal elections as being contrary to the right to vote (section 3 of the Charter) and the right to equality (section 15). No hearing date has been set.
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada v. Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance – On May 2, 2000, the Progressive Conservative Party filed in Federal Court (Trial Division) an application for judicial review of the Chief Electoral Officer's decision to allow the inclusion of the name "Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance" in the registry of parties. It argues that the Chief Electoral Officer erred in making this decision, and failed to provide an opportunity for it to be heard. No hearing date has been set.
Administration of the British Columbia Treaty Negotiations Referendum
Earlier this year, Elections BC administered a province-wide referendum entirely by mail. In the spring, voting packages were distributed to over 2.1 million registered voters, of whom more than 760 000 returned marked ballots by the May 15 deadline. Elections BC says, to its knowledge, it was the largest vote-by-mail ever administered in any Canadian jurisdiction.
The results of the referendum were announced on July 3, 2002. A majority of validly cast votes were in favour of each of the eight questions on the ballot regarding negotiating positions on such topics as Aboriginal self-government, the management of parks and protected areas, and the expropriation of private property for treaty settlements. A simple majority was required on each question, and the results are binding on the Government of British Columbia.
The British Columbia Liberal government was elected in May 2001. Its election platform included a commitment to conduct a province-wide referendum within the first year of its mandate on the principles to be used in negotiating treaties with First Nations.
In anticipation of the referendum, Elections BC analyzed voting options and developed a discussion document of options and cost models. A traditional ballot-box vote had the benefit of being familiar to voters but, at an estimated cost of $18 million, was the most expensive option available. As well, the likelihood of multiple questions on the ballot raised concerns about the time it would take a voter to mark the ballot, and the complexities of ballot counting and reconciliation.
Voting by mail was the method chosen for the referendum because of its lower cost and because Elections BC maintains a scanned image of every registered voter's signature. This allowed each voting package to be validated prior to counting. Elections BC maintains the signature file for validating signatures on recall and initiative petitions under British Columbia's unique Recall and Initiative Act. The vote-by-mail process cost approximately half the cost of voting by ballot box.
The government established an independent Referendum Office to answer inquiries regarding the ballot questions, limiting the scope of queries Elections BC handled to those about voter registration and voting procedures. The Referendum Office sent a brochure to all households in the province that explained the distinct roles of its Office and Elections BC, and provided telephone numbers and Web site addresses for both offices.
Elections BC produced voting packages for all registered voters in the province and mailed them between April 2 and April 12. The packages contained a ballot, an instruction brochure, a secrecy envelope, a postage-paid return envelope and a certification envelope. The certification envelope was pre-printed with the voter's name, residential and mailing addresses, and a bar code of their voter registration number. Voters were required to sign a declaration on the certification envelope, which was returned with their marked ballot. Voters who did not receive a voting package could phone Elections BC toll-free until May 1 to request one. A voter registration application form was included in the requested voting package, and eligible individuals could register in conjunction with voting.
Upon receipt of a returned package, Elections BC officials removed the certification envelope bearing the voter's signature, scanned the bar code on each envelope and displayed the signature of the corresponding voter on a computer screen. If the signatures matched, the operator accepted the envelope and made a notation on the voter's record that they had voted. Officials then sorted the accepted envelopes by electoral district, and removed the secrecy envelopes containing marked ballots.
The referendum legislation and regulations did not establish a process for registering "Yes" and "No" groups. As a result, there was no obvious source of scrutineers for the ballot count. To ensure consistency and accuracy, a redundant count was conducted: one referendum official considered and counted all ballots, and then a second official reviewed and validated the counts.
The vote-by-mail referendum process provided an efficient, lower-cost alternative to traditional voting methods. Administering the process centrally lessened demands on infrastructure resources, as there were no field offices to support. Furthermore, the public demonstrated a general acceptance of the voting method used.
Further information regarding the referendum process is available from Elections BC at 1 800 661-8683 or on its Web site (www.elections.bc.ca).
Canadian Election Envelopes
M. Bruce Nesbitt présente au directeur général des élections, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, des enveloppes électorales spéciales.
Elections Canada used special election envelopes for almost 50 years, forgotten by nearly everyone except old-time returning officers and deputy returning officers. Now postal historians are starting to collect and preserve them, as a reminder of the important role of the Post Office in our electoral system.
From 1925 to 1972, the Post Office Department issued official postal stationery with imprinted stamps for the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. The envelopes could only be used by deputy returning officers, to mail the Certificate of Poll from a polling station to a candidate, and to mail the Preliminary Statement of the Poll from a polling station to the returning officer of the riding.
Although most envelopes were thrown away after being used, a few survived. Earlier this year, Bruce Nesbitt presented four examples from his own collection to Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley. An Ottawa-based consultant, Dr. Nesbitt has been interested in Canadian postal history for many years.
The four election envelopes were printed from 1931 to 1955, and were used during the general elections of 1935, 1945, 1949 and 1957. The postage stamps imprinted on them show King George V, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
2002 Conference of Canadian Election Officials
The 2002 Conference of Canadian Election Officials was held in Regina, Saskatchewan, from July 17-19. The delegates attending represented the federal, provincial and territorial agencies responsible for administering elections in their respective jurisdictions.
The annual conference is a forum for Canadian election officials to report on their offices' electoral activities and initiatives during the past year, to engage in lively discussions and to deliberate on future directions for Canada's electoral statutes. This year's conference dealt with ways to increase electoral participation in an effort to enhance representative democracy.
The conference topics included the exercise of Chief Electoral Officers' emergency powers; statutory recall and initiatives legislation; improving the accuracy of lists of electors through the targeting of revision efforts; new means of communicating with electoral officers, the public and the media; enhancing the training of election personnel, and various methods of holding referendums.
Elections Canada was represented by the Director of Election Financing and Corporate Services, Janice Vézina, the Director of Communications, Oxana Sawka and the Director of Operations, Luc Dumont. Presentations were made about the various advisory committees that assist the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada in fulfilling his mandate, the results of this spring's federal by-elections pilot project on targeted revision and the use of focus groups across the country to simplify the work of official agents.
Participants at the two-day conference were also privileged to receive a presentation by a parliamentarian on the legitimacy of representative government, the promotion of democratic rights and the intrinsic right of all citizens to participate in political governance regardless of their origins or social status. The conference also heard from the Law Reform Commission of Canada about its on-going work on governance relationships and renewing democracy.
The next annual Conference of Canadian Election Officials, to be hosted by the Chief Electoral Officer of Newfoundland and Labrador, will be held next summer in St. John's.
Summary of Elections P.E.I. Report on Proportional Representation
On April 5, 2002, M. H. Wigginton, Chief Electoral Officer of Prince Edward Island, submitted a report on proportional representation to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. The report came in response to a recommendation from the Assembly's Special Committee on the Election Act to study the various models existing in jurisdictions of a size and population similar to Prince Edward Island.
The study found 124 countries where the electoral system includes a proportional representation component. According to the report, the diversity of the systems is striking: of the 124 countries examined, 120 have a unique electoral system adapted to their own political, sociological, historic and geographic needs. The authors conclude, therefore, that this diversity of electoral systems suggests that the only model really suitable to Prince Edward Island would have to be thought out and designed locally, based on circumstances specific to the province.
The report reviews the main models of proportional and mixed representation, as well as a few practical examples found primarily in Europe (Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, France, Ireland, Malta, Iceland) and in New Zealand.
The main advantages and disadvantages of each system are briefly examined. The report indicates that proportional systems seem to promote the representation of women and encourage electoral participation, but they also seem to increase the likelihood of coalition governments. First-past-the-post systems, according to the report, are known to produce governments with larger majorities and they have the advantage of linking each riding with one elected representative, thus ensuring government accountability.
The authors do not want to be overly theoretical, and thus present three scenarios for the mixed allocation of seats in the Legislative Assembly based on the results of the province's 2000 general election.Footnote 1 In each of these scenarios, some of the seats are allocated according to a first-past-the-post system and the rest using a formula based on the proportion of votes each political party received.
In the first scenario, the Legislative Assembly would be composed of 30 members, 20 elected under the first-past-the-post system and 10 elected from party lists according to the parties' share of the popular vote. The proportional distribution of the 10 seats would be based on the votes obtained, under the first-past-the-post system, in the 20 ridings. A party would have to obtain at least eight percent of the vote to be eligible for proportional allocation.
In the second scenario,Footnote 2 the Legislative Assembly would be composed of 27 members, 18 of whom would be elected in (for example) the province's three ridings, and nine allocated using a proportional system based on the votes obtained by the parties. For the first-past-the-post portion, the number of seats for each riding would be determined by that riding's demographic weight. As for the proportional portion, a separate ballot would be used, showing only the political parties' names, which would be used to determine each party's proportion of the vote. The minimum threshold to benefit from proportional representation would be 7.5 percent of the vote, the median rate used by the similar systems reviewed, which varies between 5 percent and 10 percent.
The third scenario resembles the second, but proposes four ridings instead of three – potentially the ones established under federal legislation. Assuming ridings with similar demographic weight, this scenario proposes a quota of five members elected in each riding under a first-past-the-post system (for a total of 20), and eight seats allocated on the basis of the political parties' proportion of the vote.
The Chief Electoral Officer of Prince Edward Island notes in conclusion that he cannot recommend the adoption of one of these scenarios, explaining that his role is limited to exploring the options for electoral reform of this kind. Instead he recommends that "any binding decision for one system over another system should be left to a provincial referendum, preceded by an impartial campaign of public education about the issues involved in the choice."
Inter-American Forum on Political Parties
The second meeting of the Inter-American Forum on Political Parties will be held in Vancouver, December 4 to 6, 2002, to address the modernization of political parties and political party systems. It will be hosted by Elections Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD) of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS).
The participants will include political party leaders and parliamentarians, and representatives from leading social organizations, the academic community, think tanks, electoral authorities, the mass media and international associations from North, South and Central America, including the Caribbean. The issues they discuss will constitute the beginning of an inter-American agenda to strengthen political parties and political party systems.
Leaders of political parties, representatives of political institutions, leaders of organized civil society, members of the media and academics from different countries of the Americas met in Miami, Florida, on December 13–14, 2001, to participate in the first meeting of the Inter-American Forum on Political Parties, organized by the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy of the General Secretariat of the OAS. That meeting was a response from the OAS/UPD to the direct mandate established by the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City during April 2001.
The Inter-American Forum on Political Parties is based on the premise that reforming political parties is the responsibility of society. Consequently, the Forum will seek to bring about discussion among political parties and other key political players that constitute the basis for the consolidation of democracy in the region.
The Heads of State and Government at the Quebec Summit issued the following mandate:
"Convene under the auspices of the OAS, and with the collaboration of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), meetings of experts to examine in more depth issues such as: political party registration, access of political parties to funding and to the media, campaign financing, oversight and dissemination of election results and relations of political parties with other sectors of society."
Recently approved by member states at the special session of the General Assembly of the OAS, in Lima, Peru, the Inter-American Democratic Charter makes clear reference to the importance of political parties and organizations for representative democracy. It states:
"Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government."
The Charter further adds:
"The strengthening of political parties and other political organizations is a priority for democracy. Special attention will be paid to the problems associated with the high cost of election campaigns and the establishment of a balanced and transparent system for their financing."
Since its creation in 1991, the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy of the OAS General Secretariat has initiated a number of projects directly linked to party and electoral systems. For instance, the Unit has worked in the areas of electoral reform, modernization of legislative and electoral institutions, training for the cadres and leaders of political parties and electoral observation missions.
Electoral Process Information Collection
An ambitious project to collect and publish the first ever compilation of elections management information from all countries in the world reached a new stage in June with release on the Internet of information from approximately 35 countries. The Electoral Process Information Collection (EPIC) project is a Web site and database developed jointly by International IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES). The information on the site (www.epicproject.org) is available in English, French and Spanish.
As an increasing number of nations seek to reform their electoral systems, many election officials and observers are seeking reliable, comprehensive and comparative data. The EPIC site serves as a resource for election administrators, electoral assistance providers, academics and members of the media. It offers reliable and consistent data on electoral systems, laws, management and administration that can be compared on a country-by-country basis. The information answers many questions heard frequently in the elections management community, such as "What is standard practice regarding the compiling and updating of voter registers?", "Which countries provide public funding to political parties or candidates for election campaign activities?" and "Which countries have special voter education programs targeting women, voters with low literacy levels or minority groups?"
EPIC is a follow-up to the Administration and Cost of Elections (ACE) Project, the first ever electronic encyclopedia of election administration incorporating analytical and comparative texts and examples of good practices for organizing, supporting and studying free and fair elections. While the ACE project gives information about the theoretical aspects of electoral administration, such as the guiding principles and available options together with their advantages and disadvantages, EPIC provides quantitative details as to which countries are using those various options. It also gives country profiles that are useful in determining if individual nations' practices match or diverge from regional or global practices.
The information on the Web site is compiled through a comprehensive multiple-choice survey about national elections on a country-by-country basis. The survey results make it possible to compare electoral approaches and evaluate electoral systems and administrations, and assist in enacting reforms. The survey covers nine topic areas, including electoral systems, legislative frameworks, electoral management, boundary delimitation, voter registration, voter education, parties and candidates, voting operations and vote counting. Future topics will include elections and the media, elections and technology, and electoral integrity.
Elections Canada's former Assistant Chief Electoral Officer, Ron Gould, serves on the EPIC Steering Committee on behalf of International IDEA. Elections Canada has assisted the project by proofreading the French translation of the EPIC survey.
To develop greater use around the globe of the EPIC information, the main project partners have established regional partnerships with the Association of Central and Eastern European Election Officials (ACEEEO) in Hungary, the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) in South Africa, Centre pour la gouvernance démocratique (CGD) in Burkina Faso and the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) in Mexico. Another regional partnership has been formed with the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators Network (PIANZEA) in Australia. Researchers at each of those organizations are conducting research on as many as twenty countries in their region. Most of the partner organizations will put this information on their own Web sites. At the end of September, a wider Internet launch of EPIC information from more than 50 countries took place at the annual conference of ACEEEO, in Moscow.
The EPIC data collection will, when completed, be one of the major sources of electoral information accessible around the globe through electronic means. The database will offer an array of comparative information not previously compiled in a comprehensive, accessible format, which will enrich the body of information being compiled through other on-line projects.
The 2002 conference of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws held in Ottawa was attended by delegates from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and Latin America.
Campaign Finance, Ethics and Voting Systems Highlights of 2002 COGEL Conference
Canada's Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley welcomed more than 400 delegates who attended the 24th annual conference of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws. The four-day event began on September 29 in Ottawa.
COGEL is an organization representing government entities responsible for the administration and enforcement of election campaign finance, conflict of interest, ethics, freedom of information and lobbying laws. Its membership is drawn principally from government agencies in the United States and Canada, at the state, provincial and federal levels.
Launching the conference was Rex Murphy, a well-known Canadian broadcaster, newspaper columnist and political commentator. During his hour-long speech, he said the public treats politics with "an unearned cynicism" and that Canadians tend to "leap always to the cheapest explanation for what might be a complicated circumstance." Mr. Murphy added, "If there is some erosion of the process whereby we keep this system alive, an educated citizenry must also recognize that part of the weight of this thing lies on them." He bemoaned the loss of civility and lack of intellectual sparring in the political arena, telling his audience that the finest description one politician could give another recently was to call him a "thug."
Levelling the Campaign Playing Field
The heads of the electoral agencies of the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and Canada participated in a panel discussion entitled Levelling the Campaign Playing Field: Disclosure vs. Limits. Moderator Jean-Pierre Kingsley questioned if disclosure was enough to satisfy public appetite. Research commissioned by Elections Canada shows that more than two-thirds of Canadians want limits on contributions. In November 2001, Mr. Kingsley proposed amendments to the Canada Elections Act to improve transparency in election financing. In his report to Parliament, he recommended increased disclosure obligations and imposition of limits on the contributions made to registered and eligible political parties, electoral district associations and candidates.
On September 30th, in the Speech from the Throne heralding the opening of a new session of Canada's Parliament, the federal government stated that it would introduce legislative changes to the financing of political parties and candidates, but it gave no details.
Voter turnout was lower than 60 percent at the last general election in the United Kingdom, in 2001. Sam Younger, Chairman of the United Kingdom's electoral commission, told the conference "What was more worrying was that less than 40 percent of the 18 to 24 year olds voted and the fear is very much of that continuing through the cycle as they get older and of having historically lower and lower turnouts. Hence, promoting public confidence in elections, election processes, in parties and politicians is absolutely vital and that's the context for the debate that there currently is in the United Kingdom on the issue of disclosure versus limits."
Andy Becker, Chairman of the Australian Electoral Commission expressed doubt some political parties in his country are seriously interested in disclosing some large donations they receive. "The parties will scurry all around the system to try and figure out how they can best park this money so it will avoid the disclosure provisions."
Voting Technology Systems
Conference delegates compared voting technology systems used in several countries. India, the largest democracy in the world with 620 million electors, has steadily expanded its use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in recent years. Dr. Daniel Guérin, Senior Policy and Research Officer at Elections Canada stated, "The experience of India has shown that enormous savings are possible with this EVM device which meets the integrity and security criteria as well." India has decided to use the machines as widely as possible in all future elections.
Elections Canada has initiated several studies on the potential of technology in elections. While one of the surveys found that almost half of Canadian electors would like to vote on-line in the near future, a similar percentage is concerned about the security of the new voting technologies. Dr. Guérin told the conference "for the moment, Elections Canada wants to go step by step. In that perspective, it's logical to begin by using technology for registration purposes."
Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, of New Jersey, who has advised several U.S. government bodies about new voting technologies, is opposed to the new full kiosk and Internet voting systems. "My advice right now is that the fully electronic ones, the ones that provide no paper or physical audit trail, there should be a moratorium on the purchase of those. Those are way too dangerous."
Campaigning on the Internet
Conference delegates also heard that the latest American trends in political campaigning on the Internet include on-line fundraising and growing use of e-mail to invite recipients to visit candidates' Web sites. As the use of high speed Internet connections increases, many candidates' statements will likely be delivered through full motion video.
Tracy Westen, Vice-Chairman of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies predicted on-line fundraising will grow quickly, but will have to be triggered by candidates' stands on issues or their success at campaign events. "If he or she suddenly becomes visible in the press, if they do well in a debate, if they win a primary election, if there is some cue that brings that person to your attention, if that person is for abortion or against abortion or whatever the issue is, you will be able to go to their Web site and very impulsively and quickly with a credit card give them $50 or $100." Mr. Westen also thinks fundraising by Internet could bring important benefits to democracy – greater participation by young electors and less chance of attempted influence buying. "Internet contributions will democratize the process a little, by drawing new contributors in who are giving small, arguably very non-corrupting contributions."
At the 2002 COGEL conference, the heads of four electoral agencies participated in a panel discussion on election campaign financing. From left to right are David Mason, Chairman, U.S. Federal Election Commission; Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada; Sam Younger, Chairman of the United Kingdom’s Electoral Commission; and Andy Becker, Australian Electoral Commissioner.
In a video presentation, United States Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold accepted COGEL awards for their key roles in achieving campaign finance reform in the United States. On March 27, President George W. Bush signed into law the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, containing the most significant changes in United States campaign finance regulation in more than a generation.
COGEL traces its origins to a December 1974 conference at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C., organized by executives of newly formed federal and state ethics agencies. Since its inception 28 years ago, its annual conference has been held in various U.S. and Canadian cities, including Quebec City, Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa.
COGEL's Web site is at www.cogel.org.
Return to source of Footnote 1 The Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly currently has 27 seats. During the most recent provincial general election in 2000, the Conservative Party won 26 seats, the Liberal Party, one seat, and the New Democratic Party, none.
Return to source of Footnote 2 Further developed by Andrew Cousins in a study entitled Electoral Reform for Prince Edward Island, October 2000 (http://www.upei.ca/~iis/prreport.html).
The opinions expressed are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.