First Past the Post
The returning officer finalizes the lists of electors after the vote. The lists, which include the 346 persons who registered on polling day, total 52 592 names. The number of ballots cast is 26 889, making the turnout for the Hamilton East by-election 51.1%, compared to 62% for the riding in the 1993 general election. Voter turnout tends to be lower in by-elections than in general elections.
While the votes are being counted, the returning officer's Election Results System (ERS) is linked by modem to Elections Canada's central computer, which electronically sweeps the Hamilton East system at 45-second intervals. As soon as the electronic files are received, they are relayed to the server in Ottawa, which posts them at the Elections Canada web site. Over 7 000 accesses to the site are recorded on polling day.
At the returning officer's office, on the evening of the election, a representative of Canadian Press receives the preliminary results as they become available and telephones them in to the CP head office for immediate distribution to local and national media via their wire service. Two media representatives from Hamilton are also on site.
When the count is complete, the Honourable Sheila Copps, the Liberal candidate, is declared the winner with 46.09 % of the votes cast.
Winding Things up
The Hamilton East by-election is now over, but not the work of Elections Canada. The returning officer must carry out an official addition, totalling the numbers from each official statement of votes to verify the election night tallies done by the deputy returning officers. No judicial recount is requested. On the seventh day following the official addition, Ms. Urie declares the winner in the riding by signing the back of the writ and returning it to Ottawa, where the Chief Electoral Officer also signs it. The Chief Electoral Officer then publishes a notice in the Canada Gazette and notifies the Clerk of the House of Commons.
Ms. Urie also sends to Ottawa for payment all the remaining invoices for election expenses and office accounts. Elections Canada's finance team will process some 763 accounts related to by-election expenses. Cheques will be issued for the rental of office space, for various suppliers and to some 377 persons who worked as election officials.
The official agent for each candidate has until four months after polling day (October 17, 1996) to submit a report of the candidates' campaign expenditures and contributions. During the coming months, these 13 reports will be audited by finance staff. Registered political parties will report on money spent by or on behalf of the party during the by-election with their 1996 fiscal returns, to be filed within the first six months of 1997.
The Commissioner of Canada Elections is investigating two complaints about alleged offences against the Canada Elections Act. The two complaints concern subsection 263(2) of the Act, which prohibits taking an oath falsely.
Elections Canada staff now turn their attention to preparing Elections Canada's statutory reports to Parliament. They will also verify and table the official results and, in accordance with paragraph 193(b) of the Act, prepare a year-end report on the poll-by-poll results of the by-elections held during the year and candidates' contributions and expenses. Finally, they are reviewing programs and procedures implemented during the by-election and discussing changes which will improve their effectiveness for the next event.