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On-line Voter Registration Feasibility Study – Executive Summary


 March 20, 2003

A. Background

CGI Information Systems and Management Consultants Inc. (CGI) has conducted a study on behalf of Elections Canada to examine the feasibility of developing and implementing an on-line voter registration system.

The study sought to identify the operational, legal, privacy and technical considerations associated with the development of an on-line voter registration system and to recommend short- and long-term strategies for implementing such a system.

The fact that such a feasibility study was undertaken reflects Elections Canada's commitment to make the electoral system more accessible by exploring new mechanisms to facilitate processes by which electors add, update, and/or confirm their elector information between and during electoral events. It follows up on a commitment made in the Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 37th General Election Held on November 27, 2000 to study "the feasibility of secure on-line registration and verification" as a method of improving the quality of the National Register of Electors, the database of eligible electors maintained by Elections Canada, especially for youth.

Support for on-line registration has been growing in recent years, as evidenced by responses to Elections Canada post-event surveys conducted after the November 2000 general election. When asked to think ahead three or four years, 70 percent of electors stated that they would like to register to vote on-line, if technology allows. This support increased when respondents were reassured about security concerns. In addition, other stakeholders such as Aboriginal electors, special needs electors and the academic community, indicated strong support for on-line voter registration.

The goals of an on-line voter registration system are to:

B. Scope

Previous studies commissioned by Elections Canada and others in the electoral community have differentiated the concepts of e-voting and on-line voter registration, with the former representing mechanisms to enable electors to vote electronically and the latter encompassing processes to enable electors to add, change, or confirm elector registration information via the Internet. This study focused on on-line voter registration activities and does not provide recommendations on e-voting.

Further, only on-line transactions that could be made via the Elections Canada Web site were considered. Alternate technologies such as kiosks and public enquiries were not part of the study's scope.

C. Methodology

CGI conducted in-depth interviews with internal Elections Canada stakeholders, including its Legal Services, National Register of Electors, Operations, Communications, Policy and Planning and Information Technology directorates.  

It also conducted external stakeholder interviews with key Government On-Line project authorities at Treasury Board of Canada and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the latter being one of the National Register of Electors' key partners.

An environmental scan was undertaken of on-line voter registration projects in all Canadian provinces, eight U.S. states, fifteen other countries, and multiple international electoral agencies and democracy-promotion organizations. Finally, the study team performed a high-level analysis of the objectives, constraints and opportunities inherent in an on-line voter registration system.

D. Research Findings

Based on this research, CGI concluded that:

E. Recommendations

CGI recommends that:

1) Elections Canada adopt an incremental approach to implementing an on-line voter registration system, beginning with limited capabilities before the next general election.

2) It be followed by an evolutionary implementation of more advanced functions over the longer term. This will enable the agency to learn from experience and it will provide the necessary time to address key challenges.

In order to implement this initial on-line voter registration system, Elections Canada must:

F. Benefits

The envisioned on-line voter registration system will prove beneficial to electors and Elections Canada alike. 

Elector Benefits:

Elections Canada Benefits:

G. Conclusion

On-line voter registration is feasible and elector interest and support for the idea are increasing. The time is right for Elections Canada to implement on-line registration in a two-phased approach, with initial confirmation services being offered by the time of the next federal general election and full-fledged registration services being made available afterwards.

On-line voter registration offers strategic benefits for electors. It would improve Elections Canada's service to electors and empower them to take an active role in the voter registration process. It would also permit the evolution of a more robust, integrated service delivery model that would offer electors convenient and consistent access to voter registration activities across all service delivery channels.

Finally, on-line voter registration would offer strategic opportunities for Elections Canada to position itself for the investigation of electronic voting, to establish a substantial Government On-Line presence, to develop mechanisms for real-time exchange of data with partners, and to enhance the quality of the National Register of Electors.