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Survey of Administrators Regarding the Use of the Voter Information Card as Proof of Address

Summary

The purpose of this survey was to evaluate the impact of Elections Canada's (EC's) initiative that made it possible for electors to use the Voter Information Card (VIC) as one of two authorized pieces of identification at selected polling stations during the 2011 federal general election. Information was gathered using a telephone survey approach, relying on a brief and focused five to seven minute interview with administrators in seniors' residences and long term care facilities (n=751); First Nations Band offices (n=40); and student residences (n=17). The survey was fielded in June 2011.

While awareness of the need for proof of voter identification is near universal among administrators, awareness of the potential to use letters of attestation of residence or the VIC as proof of identification is lower (seven in ten). Just under six in ten respondents said that they received information from Elections Canada to explain the voter identification requirements for their location. There is some correlation, although not overly strong, between receiving information materials from Elections Canada and being aware that a letter of attestation could be used as proof of identity.

Most respondents indicated Elections Canada as their main source for information on these issues, although more than half were not clear on precisely who they had been dealing with, suggesting the potential need for additional steps to formalize the process, where possible, to ensure that institutional representatives are fully briefed. Satisfaction with the information provided by Elections Canada is high; however, when respondents provided additional comments, a small segment said that the preparatory steps and/or training could have been more rigorous, and that contacts should be initiated earlier.

By and large, respondents did not find the process of issuing letters of attestation of residence too onerous. Only half reported that they were asked for such letters by their residents. Most said that they issued 10 to 20 of these (averaging 17). Only the largest organizations, mainly long term care and seniors' facilities, issued upwards of 30 letters (averaging 35 letters in these cases). Few of those issuing letters said that the process required a lot of additional work from them.

On average, respondents were contacted four times by Elections Canada representatives in relation to the 2011 general election. A large majority said that this rate was reasonable.

The vast majority of respondents (85 per cent) reported they neither heard nor witnessed any problems encountered by residents at their organization regarding identification requirements. Just seven per cent indicated they knew of someone encountering problems with identification documents.

Many (two in three) said that use of the VIC as proof of identification made the process easier for residents to vote, although one in four did not feel that this made a difference. That said, this segment may not have felt that the process of identification was particularly difficult for residents before the addition of the VIC as a method of proving identification. Among those who provided additional comments, a sizable proportion (about 60 respondents) said that the process of voter identification still needs to be simplified in institutions.

1. Introduction and Methodology

1.1 Survey Objectives

The purpose of this survey was to evaluate the impact of Elections Canada's (EC's) initiative that made it possible for electors to use the Voter Information Card (VIC) as one of two authorized pieces of identification at selected polling stations during the 2011 federal general election.

This initiative, initially tested during the November 2010 federal by-elections in Dauphin–Swan River–Marquette, Vaughan and Winnipeg North, specifically targeted electors identified as being the most likely to experience difficulties in proving their address at the polls, namely those living on a reserve, in a student residence on a university campus, in a long term care facility or in a seniors' residence.

The information obtained through this research gathered information directly from local administrators in the targeted areas or facilities, and helped to determine the following:

Information was gathered using a telephone survey approach, relying on a brief and focused five to seven minute interview. The following describes the approach used to complete this work.

1.2 Survey Methodology

This study involved a brief telephone interview with the following target groups:

  1. Administrators in a long term care facility (LTCF) or seniors' residence. In total, 751 administrators responded to this survey (395 in LTCF, 285 in seniors' residences and 71 in facilities that were both types simultaneously). Although the sample was randomly drawn from a list of 4,500 facilities, the initial list is likely not a full representation of the universe of such facilities in Canada and therefore the survey is considered a non-probabilistic sample (to which no margin of error can be associated).
  2. Administrators in student residences on campuses. In total, 17 student residence administrators, out of 76 enumerated, responded to this survey.
  3. Administrators in First Nations Band Offices on reserves, of which 40 out of 226 responded. Contact information was harvested on the Internet.

For the last two groups, the methodology was based on a census with the objective to complete as many interviews as possible. There is no margin of error associated with this type of non probabilistic sample. In addition, in the case of the student residence and First Nations Band samples the small number of respondents involved inhibits the capacity to draw definitive conclusions that would reliably represent all such facilities in the country. Nonetheless, the results remain highly informative about direct experience of a significant number of administrators in the target areas and facilities.

The survey was pre-tested with administrators of LTCF (10 cases in English and 10 cases in French) in order to ensure the clarity of the questions and that the wording and flow were appropriate. Respondents were given the option of completing the interview in either official language.

1.3 Organization Profile

The largest proportion in the sample is either from long term care facilities (LTCF) or seniors' residences. Half of respondents (49 per cent) are from an LTCF, and just over one-third (35 per cent) are from seniors' residences. A further one in ten (nine per cent) work in a joint LTCF/seniors' residence. Regarding the two smaller samples included in the survey, five per cent are located on First Nations reserves, and two per cent in student residences.

The majority of facilities (67 per cent) had fewer than 100 eligible electors at the time of the 2011 election, and one in four facilities (26 per cent) had fewer than 30 eligible electors. Three in ten (30 per cent) were larger locations with 100 or more electors.

Large locations with 200 or more electors are more likely to have been First Nations reserves (50 per cent) and joint LTCF/seniors' residences (25 per cent). The seniors' residences tend to be the smallest facilities in the sample.

Table 1.1 Organization type, size and region

Location/facility type n % of Respondents
Long term care facility (LTCF) 395 49
Seniors' residence 285 35
First Nations reserve 40 5
School residence 17 2
Joint LTCF/seniors' residence 71 9
Total 808 100

Number of electors n % of Respondents
Under 30 211 26
30 to 59 153 19
60 to 99 176 22
100 to 199 154 19
200 or more 112 11
No response 2 3
Total 808 100

Regional distribution n % of Respondents
British Columbia/Territories 101 13
Alberta 84 10
Saskatchewan 66 8
Manitoba 41 5
Ontario 276 34
Quebec 130 16
New Brunswick 55 7
Nova Scotia 39 5
Newfoundland and Labrador 16 2
Total 808 100