Independent audit report on the performance of the duties and functions of election officials – 42nd General Election
5. Additional considerations
The following were topics noted during the course of our audit but were not directly related to the scope of our audit and, as a result, did not impact our overall conclusion against audit objectives.
5.1 Current electoral process
The electoral process can be very complex, manual and time consuming as a result of the constraint applied by the current legislation. This, coupled with the increased elector turnout, placed pressure on the process resulting in long wait lines which were often attributed to election officials having to rewrite a lot of information.
The current process to serve electors is inherently a very manual process. For regular voters, this requires the PC to search through dozens of pages of the List of Electors to find the elector's name and then once their identification and residency is validated, using a ruler, crossing the elector's name off and recording that they have voted. For those requiring the administration of special procedures, the manual nature of the process includes initiating and completing a certificate, including in many cases, the signature of the elector and, in all cases, the signature of the DRO and a corresponding entry in the poll book. In cases where a registration certificate is required, the REGO must manually search for the address of the elector in the poll key which can be several hundreds of pages to find the corresponding polling division. In the case of an oath of residence, an additional signature is required on the certificate – that of the attestor.
Manual processes inherently lead to human error. This is intensified when election officials are faced with pressure of long line-ups, dissatisfied electors and are not fully comfortable with the different voting scenarios and the associated paperwork. This was corroborated by our findings outlined in Section 4 of this report.
We recognize that an automated process has been and continues to be contemplated by EC; however, we acknowledge that, to date, the organization has focused its efforts on establishing efficient and effective processes given the current manual operating environment.
5.2 Advance poll activities
As noted earlier, elector attendance at advance polls increased significantly in the 42nd General Election as compared to the previous election. Advance polling took place over Thanksgiving Day weekend and included one extra day: Sunday of the long weekend.
Typically, the majority of those who attend advance polls are regular voters who do not require the administration of special procedures. This allows the process to serve electors to go quickly; however, an additional form is required to be completed by the PC, unique to advance polls. The record of votes cast requires the PC to document the elector's full name and full address, and then the elector is asked to sign the document as well. Once the elector has voted, the PC confirms this by marking the elector off as "voted" on the form. The record of votes cast requires the signature of the elector confirming they have voted as part of an advance poll in case challenges arise downstream should that elector attempt to vote on election day.
As a result of the exceptional voter turnout at advance polls and the additional manual paperwork required to serve each elector, significant delays and line-ups were experienced at polling stations across the country. Anecdotal information gathered saw electors waiting in lines for up to two hours to cast their ballot. This led to extreme frustration and dissatisfaction from electors. In addition, election officials, specifically PCs, faced their own challenges in terms of keeping up with the number of electors in line and focusing on serving in the best interest of the elector. Our audit procedures at advance polls saw a multitude of unique processes implemented in order for the election officials to be as efficient as possible, including:
- serving multiple electors at a time (i.e. not waiting until the previous elector had cast their ballot before accepting another elector at the polling station desk)
- reallocating duties at the polling station (i.e. having the DRO assume tasks beyond reviewing ID and issuing ballot)
- leveraging less busy election officials (i.e. REGO, information officer and central poll supervisor) to complete some administrative activities (i.e. marking all electors on the record of votes cast as having voted after the sheet was completed and subsequent to the elector having cast his/her ballot and left the polling station)
Overall, despite the various approaches that election officials took to streamline the process and serve electors in the most efficient manner possible, the requirement to manually complete the record of votes cast continued to result in inefficiencies by election officials and delays and frustration by electors.