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Independent audit report on the performance of the duties and functions of Election Officials – By-elections April 3, 2017

1 Introduction

1.1 Background

The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), commonly known as Elections Canada (EC), is an independent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament. The CEO, an agent of Parliament, is responsible for directing and supervising the conduct of elections and referendums at the national level and monitoring compliance under the Canada Elections Act (CEA or "the Act").

On June 19, 2014, Bill C-23 received Royal Assent. C-23 amended the Act by adding section 164.1 to introduce a legislated audit. Section 164.1 of the Act states the following:

For each general election and by-election, the Chief Electoral Officer shall engage an auditor that he or she considers to have technical or specialized knowledge — other than a member of his or her staff or an election officer — to perform an audit and report on whether deputy returning officers, poll clerks and registration officers have, on all days of advance polling and on polling day, properly exercised the powers conferred on them, and properly performed the duties and functions imposed on them, under sections 143 to 149, 161 to 162 and 169.

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) was engaged to perform an independent audit and report on the performance of the duties and functions of Deputy Returning Officers, Poll Clerks and Registration Officers("Election Officials") in relation to sections 143 to 149, 161 to 162 and 169 of the Act (hereinafter referred to as "the relevant sections of the Act"), including our assessment on the degree to which administrative controls established by EC support Election Officials in this regard for each general election and by-election. The relevant sections of the Act pertain to an elector's proof of identity and residence, attestation to an elector's qualification or residence, registration of electors who are not on the List of Electors and record-keeping duties.

The scope of the duties of Election Officials as prescribed in the relevant sections of the Act require Election Officials to register electors, request and examine each elector's proof of identity and address as well as administer and complete prescribed forms and certificates on all days of advance polling (held March 24 to March 27, 2017) and on election day (held on April 3, 2017) in relation to the by-elections in the Electoral Districts of Calgary Heritage (Alberta), Calgary Midnapore (Alberta), Markham–Thornhill (Ontario), Ottawa–Vanier (Ontario), and Saint-Laurent (Quebec) (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the Electoral Districts" or "EDs").

1.2 EC's operating context

The statutory mandate of EC is highly operational. The CEO issued a Writ on February 19, 2017 for a by-election in the riding of Ottawa–Vanier and on February 21, 2017, Writs were issued for a by-election in each of the ridings of Calgary Heritage, Calgary Midnapore, Markham–Thornhill, and Saint-Laurent. Once the Writs were issued, EC and an appointed returning officer (RO) in each ED started mobilizing hundreds of temporary workers to prepare for the by-elections. The RO in each riding has a very small window of time to hire and train these temporary workers before election day. In addition to other roles required to prepare for and support advance polling and election day, the RO was responsible for appointing a deputy returning officer (DRO), a poll clerk (PC) and a registration officer (REGO) (collectively referred to as "Election Officials") to perform election related duties at polling sites throughout the ED. One DRO and one PC are required per polling station and, typically, one REGO is assigned to each central polling site/place. It is the duties of these specific Election Officials that are included in the scope of this audit under S.164.1 of the CEA.

The delivery of these by-elections was highly dependent on each RO, in collaboration with the Recruitment Officers, to hire and train a temporary workforce of approximately 3,250. These individuals are the ones who, for advance polls and election day polls, confirm the appropriateness of identification provided by the elector, confirm that the individual is at the appropriate polling station and is on the List of Electors, confirm that the individual has not previously voted, strike the individual off the List of Electors, provide the elector with a ballot and confirm that they voted. In special circumstances, the Election Officials initiate and complete additional steps and associated paperwork to allow electors to vote. EC has implemented measures to support Election Officials by providing them with training, tools and guidance to perform their duties and functions. It is our understanding that following the 41st General Election, EC took actions to improve processes and tools, focusing on compliance, and implemented a quality control framework to test these changes in a controlled environment. Furthermore, as a result of the audit of the 2015 general election, additional measures were taken to strengthen the design and delivery of the training program.

Election Officials are required to work long days, with minimal breaks, serving electors. In addition, the requirements of the Act result in complexities relative to the procedures they are expected to undertake (i.e. number of different acceptable forms of identification, number and nature of special procedures) throughout the day. For these by-elections, advance polls were open for eight hours a day for four consecutive days, and election day polls were open for 12 hours to allow the maximum number of people to vote. These by-elections saw a voter turnout of 31.5%Footnote 1 compared to 44.2%Footnote 2 at the 2016 by-election.

The current administrative processes required to be completed by the Election Officials are currently very manual – with only printouts, checklists and booklets available to document the results of the interactions with electors. Human error is unavoidable due to the manual nature of the processes to serve electors and the approximately 3,250 Election Officials required to administer the associated procedures.

Footnote 1 As provided by Elections Canada.

Footnote 2 As provided by Elections Canada.