Returning Officer's Manual
Chapter 13 – Results
This Chapter outlines the procedures for processing ballots and communicating results.
It is your responsibility as the returning officer (RO) to collect all election results and to communicate them to the media and public. The deputy returning officers (DROs) of advance, mobile and ordinary polls are responsible for the preliminary ballot count as well as the local special ballot count. You must conduct the validation of the results as soon as possible after election day.
ss. 283(2)(3), 293(1)
Electors are mostly interested in the preliminary results and the various media undertake a nationwide program to broadcast them. Without adequate planning and preparation for the receipt and compilation of these results on election night, the efforts of the media cannot achieve the expected results.
After the polls close on election day, you receive the preliminary results, compile them and issue periodic reports of the results as they become available. Due to the importance of transmitting these results as fast as possible, it is imperative that they be transmitted by telephone to the RO office before the DRO or central poll supervisor (CPS) returns the ballot boxes.
13.1.1 RO Office Layout on Election Night
Your office should be organized for maximum efficiency on election night. Plan a suitable space for receiving the election results from the polling stations by telephone and compiling them. A convenient area should also be designated for the media.
13.1.2 Event Results System
The Event Results System (ERS) is a software application developed for capturing poll-by-poll results at an electoral event. Its two functions are:
- entering the unofficial (preliminary) results on election night;
- entering the official results of the RO's validation of the results, usually following election day.
Three workstations should be used to enter the results into ERS. Ensure that the ROPS/ SITES application is not in use during this time, as it may affect transmission on election night. It is recommended to set up three teams of two members each: one person assigned to enter the data while the other person verifies the data. This will speed up the verification and transmission on election night.
Elections Canada (EC) provides an Event Results System User's Guide (EC 40239) containing detailed system and procedural instructions on ERS for the automation coordinator (AC). EC also trains the AC on the functions of ERS. Note that the Automation Coordinator's Manual (EC 10500) contains supplementary procedural instructions.
13.1.3 Publication of Unofficial Results
Media correspondents receive progressive reports of the preliminary results. ERS has been developed with their needs in mind and, on election night, it produces a cumulative report, the Summary of Votes Cast report. This report is automatically printed after the data entry and certification of five polling stations. You can print this summary report as required.
The person assigned to entering data enters the results for a polling station into ERS. A verifier then performs a visual verification of the entries directly on the screen and gives the approval to the data entry clerk to certify them. Once certified, the results (after the fifth polling station is certified) are automatically transmitted to EC in Gatineau, to www.elections.ca and the media consortium.
The Summary of Votes Cast report can be given to media correspondents and local media. These results are unofficial (preliminary). The official results are available only after the RO conducts the validation of the results on the date identified on the Notice of Election (EC 10020).
Note: By-Election Exception:
Results are transmitted only to EC in Gatineau, www.elections.ca, as the media
consortium does not participate in by-elections.
13.1.4 Media Consortium
Major Canadian news media have formed a consortium to centralize the collection of election results for dissemination to the public.
A correspondent representing the consortium is present in the RO office on election night to collect and report results centrally to the consortium. This is done in parallel to ERS. The correspondent, selected by you and paid by the consortium, should be seated as close as possible to where the results are printed (i.e. Summary of Votes Cast report). The consortium will pay the correspondent an amount of $40 for the use of a cellular phone (if the correspondent owns one). If not, the consortium will provide the correspondent with a cellular phone to do the work.
You, or a delegated staff member, must supply the certified results (i.e. Summary of Votes Cast report) to the correspondent, who forwards these results to the consortium using the cellular phone. The results are supplied to the correspondent in a pre-determined sequence (e.g. every five certified polls).
13.1.5 Communicating and Receiving Preliminary Election Results
Make arrangements to ensure that election results are reported quickly and accurately:
- Give the telephone number of the RO office to each CPS (and DRO in smaller sites) to call in the results for their polling station(s). The telephone number should also appear on each Statement of the Vote (EC 50100). CPSs appointed to central polling places must call in the results of each poll under their supervision individually as they are ready rather than wait for the results from all polling stations to be available.
The revision centre area used by the revising agents is the recommended area for receiving calls.
- Hire enough personnel to answer incoming telephone calls from each polling station and to record the information on the Telephone Tally Sheet that is printed from ERS. A sample of a Telephone Tally Sheet is available in Chapter 18. The staff assigned to answering the calls must complete a separate sheet for each polling station. The Telephone Tally Sheet contains:
- electoral district (ED) name and date of the election;
- space for recording the polling station number;
- candidates' names;
- space for recording the number of votes cast for each candidate;
- space for recording the total number of valid votes;
- space for recording the number of rejected ballots;
- space for recording the total count.
- Instruct a runner to collect all Telephone Tally Sheets and bring them to the data entry clerks who will then enter the data into ERS on their workstations, where the work environment is less noisy than in the revision centre.
- Instruct a verifier to proofread the results on the Telephone Tally Sheets against the results on the screen and gives approval to the data entry clerk to certify.
Summary of Votes Cast
The Summary of Votes Cast report is printed automatically after five polls are certified or more frequently if the data entry is done slowly (or as requested). It can then be photocopied and distributed to the media correspondent and local media who wish to know at that point how many polls have reported their results and the total votes cast for each candidate. ERS also allows for the simultaneous printout of multiple copies, if preferred. It is recommended to have at least two copies printed: one for you and one to be provided to the media correspondent.
Secrecy of the Vote
Voting results issues could compromise the secrecy of the vote.
Before the AC closes ERS on election night, you must verify the Detail of the Vote – For use by the returning officer only – Preliminary results (EC 10027) report for any anomalies or any voting results issues. Pay attention to warranted circumstances such as if all electors in one polling station voted in favour of the same candidate.
For any issues concerning the secrecy of the vote, immediately contact the Electoral Coordination Helpdesk.
13.1.6 Counting Special Ballots
For local electors, only ballots received before the close of polls in the ED on election day are counted. All other categories of special ballots must be received by EC in Ottawa before 6:00 p.m. Ottawa time to be counted. In accordance with the Canada Elections Act (CEA), late ballots cannot be counted.
Table 13a: Counting Special Ballots – Location identifies where special ballots of different categories of electors under the special voting rules (SVR) are counted.
|Elector Category – SVR||EC in Ottawa||RO Office|
|Local electors (including those in acute care hospitals)||X|
|National electors (including those in acute care hospitals)||X|
|Canadian Forces electors||X|
The following group results of all elector groups are counted at EC in Ottawa by ED, and the results are divided into:
- Group 1: Canadian Forces, incarcerated and international electors.
- Group 2: National electors.
The results of Group 2 are a total of the national counts (counted at EC in Ottawa) and local counts (counted in your office).
The results of Group 1 and the national count under Group 2 will be sent to you in a password-protected PDF file attached to an email after the scheduled close of polls. The AC will need to enter and certify the SVR 1 results immediately after the email is received in the RO office.
Note: If email is unavailable, the results will be transmitted by fax to your office.
Count of Special Ballots at EC in Ottawa
The counting of the special ballots in Ottawa begins on a date set by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) or, if no date is set, on Wednesday, the fifth day before election day.
Count of Local Special Ballots Received at RO Office
The DRO and poll clerk count the ballots cast by local electors in your office after the polls close on election day. You appoint them from the list of names recommended by the registered parties whose candidates finished first and second in the previous election in the ED. (See Part 11 of the CEA.)
Should there be more than one DRO/poll clerk team, designate one of the teams as the "primary team" that will be responsible for compiling the Statement of the Vote (EC 78760) for the counting of local special ballots. If you require additional DRO/poll clerk teams, call the SVR Helpdesk for prior authorization. For additional information on the responsibility of the "primary team," refer to the Deputy Returning Officer's Manual (Counting Local Special Ballots) (EC 78700).
A special ballot coordinator (SBC) must be designated to coordinate the verification of the outer envelopes and prepare the material required for the counting of local special ballots. Ensure that the Deputy Returning Officer's Manual (Counting Local Special Ballots) (EC 78700) has been provided to the designated SBC as soon as possible, but no later than Day 5.
Note: Your SBCs should not be appointed as a DRO or poll clerk for the counting of local special ballots. Your SBC may only be present or available during the verification period to provide assistance; they may not be present during the counting of special ballots.
Materials Required for the Ballot Count
The materials required for the count of local special ballots are found in Lot 27, which is shipped to your office over the course of three days (Days 34 to 32) for delivery no later than Day 28. A set number of kits required for the DROs and poll clerks have been provisioned. Your office will automatically receive three kits.
To assist you, EC monitors the number of local registrations received during the electoral calendar based on the information entered in Survey Module of the Integrated Management Portal (IMP/Survey). You must report the cumulative number of registration forms received from local electors on Days 25, 18, 15, 8 and 6. Add the total number of registration forms received in your office, the additional assistant returning officer (AARO) office (if applicable) or in acute care hospitals in the district (if applicable). EC will consider the data that you provide in the Survey Module of the Integrated Management Portal. If the number of applications is greater than anticipated, EC will provide additional kits to the RO office but only until the seventh day before election day.
The SBC designated to coordinate the verification process will provide each DRO/poll clerk team with the sealed ballot box containing the local special ballots, along with the following:
- pages of the Record of Special Ballots Issued to Electors Voting in Their Electoral District (EC 78720) corresponding to the ballot box;
- a copy of the Log of Special Ballot Coordinator Initials (EC 78721), with the initials of all the SBCs who issued special ballots, including the SBCs who worked in the AARO offices and acute care hospitals, if any;
- photocopies of the Application for Registration and Special Ballot: For electors inside their electoral districts (EC 78520, EC 78525 and EC 78530) corresponding to the ballot box;
- a copy of the Statement of the Vote (EC 78760);
- a kit of supplies (Lot 24) provided for that purpose
In addition to the aforementioned, the SBC will provide the primary DRO/poll clerk team with the following items:
- original Statement of the Vote (EC 78760);
- Envelopes for Spoiled Ballots (EC 78900) containing ballots that were spoiled at the time of voting;
- Envelopes for Unused Ballots (EC 78930) containing ballots that were not used, as well as the stubs of all used ballots;
- small plastic bags (EC 50011) for counterfoils.
See Counting the Local Special Ballot Votes in the RO's Office Checklist in Chapter 18, for more details.
Persons Allowed During the Verification and Counting of Local Ballots
The following people may be present at the verification and counting process:
- DRO(s) and poll clerk(s);
- SBC designated to coordinate the activity (verification process only);
- candidates or one of their representatives for each DRO/poll clerk team (if no representatives are present, ensure that there is one elector prepared to serve as a witness);
- RO, if required.
Starting Time for Verification of the Documents
The DROs and poll clerks must start the verification of the documents in the ballot box before the closing of the polls on election day. As this process is time-consuming, it is critical that the Verification Start Time be respected.
Note: The unmarked inner envelopes cannot be opened until after the close of the polls in the ED.
Table 13b, Verification Start Time outlines when the verification should begin.
|Number of local ballots cast||Number of hours prior to close of the polls when DROs and poll clerks can begin verification|
|1–500||3 hours (1 team)|
|501–1,000||4 hours (2 teams)|
|1001–1,500||5 hours (3 teams)|
|1,501–2,000||5 hours (4 teams)|
For example, if there are 800 local ballots and the polling stations in a particular ED close at 7:30 p.m., you should set up three DRO/poll clerk teams and the verification should begin no later than 2:30 p.m.
After the verification start time for the DROs and poll clerks has been established, you should notify all candidates in the ED of the time and place of the verification so they may be represented.
When the counting of special ballots at EC in Ottawa is complete, the SVR administrator merges the results of the ballots cast by Canadian Forces electors, incarcerated electors and international electors voting under SVR for each ED. This is referred to as SVR Group 1. The result of voting by national electors is referred to as SVR Group 2 National.
The SVR Results sheet containing these results (Group 1 and the national count under Group 2) will be sent to you by email in a password-protected PDF file 30 to 60 minutes after the close of the polls in your ED on election night. The email will be sent from the ERS-SVR@elections.ca email account.
The AC will need to enter and certify the SVR 1 results immediately after the email is received in the RO office. If email is unavailable, the results will be transmitted by fax to your office.
Note: The password for the PDF file will be sent to your generic RO email account at the close of polls (i.e. ED@elections.ca).
The results of SVR Group 1 are entered into ERS under the Poll S/R 1, as soon as you receive them from EC.
The results of the ballots cast by local electors counted in your office (under the Local column of Poll S/R 2), and the results from the ballots counted by EC (under the National column of Poll S/R 2) must be entered at the same time into ERS, as soon as both results from EC are received and the local ballot count in the office is complete.
The results for SVR Group 1 and the results for SVR Group 2 are displayed separately on election night.
Note: Verify the information received under SVR Group 1 and SVR Group 2 (National and Local) results to ensure that all results are entered and tabulated accurately.
13.1.7 Close Margin in Results
If after the receipt of the preliminary results on election night there appears to be only a small margin (500 votes or less) between the first two candidates, contact EC immediately so that appropriate security arrangements may be made to ensure the safe storage of the ballot boxes.
Office security, which must be present throughout election day, should continue until you have completed the validation of the results. If a judicial recount becomes necessary or is requested, retain the security measures until the ballot boxes have been transferred to the recount location.
13.2 Receipt of Election Materials
On election night, CPSs and DROs must deliver their Transport Bag – Ordinary Ballot Box (EC 50254), which contains the ballot box along with other election material items, to the RO office after communicating their preliminary results by telephone.
In more remote regions, a special messenger can pick up the transport bags or you may ask the DROs to send them by priority courier. In EDs with additional offices, AAROs can assume the responsibility of collecting the transport bags and other election materials for polling stations under their responsibility. Arrangements must be made for the transfer of the ballot boxes and materials to the RO office before the validation of results is performed. See Chapter 15 for more details.
Each polling station will provide a Transport Bag – Ordinary Ballot Box (EC 50254):
- For an ordinary poll, the bag will contain:
- a sealed Ballot Box (EC 50250);
- a signed Organizing and Returning Material (EC 50020);
- a White Copy of the Statement of the Vote Envelope (EC 50370);
- a Registration and/or Correction Certificates Envelope (EC 50390);
- an Oath of Residence Certificates Envelope (EC 50422);
- Original Copies of Statement of Electors Who Voted at the Polling Station Envelope (EC 50385).
- For an advance poll, the bag will contain:
- a sealed Ballot Box (EC 50250);
- an Advance Poll Transportation Bag (EC 50253);
- a signed Organizing and Returning Advance Poll Material (EC 50026) poster;
- a VIC Collection Box (EC 50255), if applicable.
Note: During advance polling days, the Registration and/or Correction Certificates Envelope (EC 50390), Oath of Residence Certificates Envelope (EC 50422) and Original Copies of Statement of Electors Who Voted at the Polling Station Envelope (EC 50385) are returned to the RO office on a daily basis and will not be included in the transport bags.
A large number of CPSs and DROs may send the transport bags and materials at the same time on election night. Take the necessary steps beforehand to avoid confusion.
Use the Checklist for Return of Election Materials to record the articles as they come in from each polling station (see Table 13c: Checklist for Return of Election Materials)
s. 291, ss. 290(2)
Note: Address reported incidents of missing election materials promptly. You must log the details right away on the Incident Report Form (EC 10051).
Table 13c: Checklist for Return of Election Materials
13.2.1 Preparing to Receive the Materials
- Secure an area to store the ballot boxes and materials sent in by the CPSs and DROs after the count on election night. (Make sure that comings and goings are controlled as much as possible.)
- Assemble the area with the Validation of Results in mind, as you may need to access the ballot boxes if the white copies of the Statement of the Vote (EC 50100) are missing or unreadable. If you have the space, store the ballot boxes in numerical order as it makes it easier to see which boxes have not been received.
- Set up tables and posters, assigning approximately 25 polling stations per table.
Remember to include the advance polls.
- Set up a "crisis office" to deal with the problems that occur.
- To stay in control of the situation, prepare a checklist (multiple copies) that employees can use when the ballot boxes and other materials come in. Use it to note receipt of the election materials from each polling station (See Table 13c, Checklist for the Return of Election Materials).
- Assign one employee to each table. Each table should have the checklist for ease of tracking. Additional employees may be needed to store and arrange the materials and boxes.
- Periodically compare the checklist against the number of the polling stations that have not yet reported their results from the Summary of Votes Cast report (generated from ERS). It is possible that the transport bag containing the ballot box and election material will reach the RO office before the DRO's telephone call. In such a case, note the results recorded on the Statement of the Vote (EC 50100) for this polling station on a Telephone Tally Sheet and forward them to the ERS team for data capture.
- Identify an area to store the VIC Collection Box (EC 50255) (one or two per polling location) until ready to return to EC for confidential shredding in Lot 1 .
- Prepare boxes to sort and store the following incoming materials:
- White Copy of the Statement of the Vote Envelopes (EC 50370);
- Registration and/or Correction Certificates Envelopes (EC 50390);
- Oath of Residence Certificates Envelopes (EC 50422);
- Original Copies of the Statement of the Electors Who Voted at the Polling Station Envelopes (EC 50385);
- Organizing and Returning Material (EC 50020) or Organizing and Returning Advance Poll Material (EC 50026).
- Open the White Copy of the Statement of the Vote Envelope (EC 50370) and take out the white copy of the Statement of the Vote (EC 50100). Verify the polling station number is on the Statement of the Vote. Put the white copies in numerical order in a basket set aside for this purpose.
- Check that the serial number of the seal on the ballot box is the same as the one on the Statement of the Vote (EC 50100). If the numbers correspond, your verification ends there. If they do not correspond, the CPS or DRO must be asked why and the discrepancy and explanations provided must be noted on the white copy of the Statement of the Vote (EC 50100).
- The ballot boxes, still sealed, must be stored in numerical order in a safe place in the RO office until the validation of the results.
- The Registration and/or Correction Certificates Envelopes (EC 50390), Oath of Residence Certificates Envelopes (EC 50422) and Original Copies of Statement of Electors Who Voted at the Polling Station Envelopes (EC 50385) should be put aside so that they can be processed the next day. As well, make sure that the polling station number is properly recorded on all the envelopes before putting them aside.
Note: It is forbidden to open the ballot box on election night.
s. 167 (2)(d), s. 292