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Comparative Assessment of Central Electoral Agencies


This study could not have been completed without the co-operation and support of a number of institutions and individuals, and the authors would like to thank them sincerely and publicly for their contribution to the production and quality of this report.

We start with Mr. Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, who invited us to undertake the study, made the resources of his Office available to us and wrote a letter of introduction to the other five national electoral authorities, asking them to co-operate with the researchers by providing confidential interviews and directing us to relevant sources.

During the course of the study, we benefited greatly from the active support and informed advice of a number of experienced professionals at Elections Canada. Our initial discussions about the aims and scope of the study were conducted with Mr. Belaineh Deguefé, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Integrated Services, Policy and Public Affairs. Our ongoing contact through the course of the study was with Mr. Alain Pelletier, Acting Director, Policy and Research, and his colleague Ms. Sophie-Natacha Robichaud, Senior Policy Coordinator. Mr. Stéphane Perrault, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Legal Services, Compliance and Investigations, provided legal input along the way and consented to a confidential interview. No doubt other Elections Canada staff, not known to the researchers, provided advice on the project, as well as the administrative support that made our task easier. In addition to thanking our colleagues at Elections Canada for their willingness to share their expert knowledge in a frank manner, we also want to thank them for respecting the principle that this was an independent research project, and the conclusions are those of the researchers.

Our assessment of the governance arrangements for Elections Canada took us to five other countries – unfortunately, not through travel but only through telephone interviews. Following up the letter of introduction from the Chief Electoral Officer at Elections Canada to the senior official of the EMBs in Australia, India, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, we managed to conduct confidential interviews with representatives of those offices in four of those countries. In the case of the US, the current difficulties being experienced in the two national election commissions meant that no official was available from either. Thus, as an alternative, we interviewed an electoral law specialist with four decades of front-line experience in the field. The names of the interviewees are listed in Appendix F. We offer a sincere thanks to all those individuals who so generously shared their time, expertise and candid insights into the little studied world of electoral governance. It is a cliché, but true, to say that this report could not have been completed without the benefit of the kind of distinctive, specialized knowledge that they contributed to the study.

Finally, we would like to thank the women in our lives, Ellen (Lorne) and Roberta (Paul), for their understanding and patience as we preoccupied ourselves with producing a report that they probably would consider a dry-as-dust document on an obscure topic. It is our job to persuade them that understanding and upholding the fundamental principles of electoral democracy is important. We hope the report convinces them and others.

Note to the Reader

This comparative assessment of selected electoral management bodies (EMBs) was commissioned by Elections Canada. The authors were engaged to look at the electoral commissions in Australia, India, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States and to compare the strengths and weaknesses of these EMBs with those of the Canadian federal model as represented by the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. The observations, comparative assessment and conclusions are those of the authors.

Executive Summary

This study was commissioned by and developed in collaboration with Elections Canada. The descriptions, analyses and conclusions presented in the study are those of the authors, not Elections Canada.

The purpose of the study was to provide an analysis of the governance arrangements for national elections in Canada compared to the arrangements in Australia, India, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The comparative assessment focuses on the following components of the electoral governance in each country:

The assessments of the six countries are guided by a set of criteria presented briefly in the body of the report and discussed at length in Appendix A. These criteria are:

The methodology for the study consisted of a selective review of the secondary academic literature, an analysis of official documents and websites in the six countries and the conduct of a series of semi-structured, confidential interviews with officials in the six countries.

The main sections of the report consist of an overview of the findings from the six country case studies, more detailed analyses of the electoral arrangements in each of the countries and a brief conclusion that draws some possible lessons for Elections Canada.

The overview findings include the following observations:

The brief conclusion to the study elaborates on the following three points: