Responding to Changing Needs – Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the 40th General Election
I – Issues Relating to the Electoral Process
Canadians have been well served by the electoral process. However, Canadian society is quickly evolving; it is becoming more mobile and diversified, it is rapidly aging and an increasing number of citizens are using communication technologies to conduct their daily activities. These significant trends require that the electoral process be updated to better meet electors' expectations in terms of accessibility, service and resource management. Accordingly, this chapter organizes recommendations around three main themes: making the electoral process more flexible and efficient, maintaining electors' trust and increasing accessibility.
There are undoubtedly numerous initiatives that could improve the electoral process and make it more efficient. For example, different administrative structures could be put in place to streamline operations at polling sites. Caution is of the essence, however, as an ill-considered proposal could have adverse effects on our democracy. It would, therefore, be beneficial for Parliament to authorize Elections Canada to test new processes, using a model comparable to that which is already set out in the Canada Elections Act for electronic voting. This would enable us to test a number of methods and their implementation and to better assess possible consequences before proposing legislative amendments (recommendation I.1).
Moreover, the current Act provides limited latitude to explore the opportunities afforded by new technologies for improving the electoral process and making it more accessible. An increasing number of electors and political entities want to do business electronically with Elections Canada. While we already make extensive use of computer systems, the Act's requirements with respect to signatures and the production of documents prevent us from providing a more extensive range of electronic services. We therefore recommend that the Act allow the use of authentication and identification methods other than a signature when electors access Elections Canada's services (recommendation I.10). This would allow new electors to register on-line. The third chapter of this report contains a more general recommendation that would allow our stakeholders – in particular, political entities – to deal with us electronically without compromising the integrity of the electoral process (recommendation III.3).
Under the Act, Canadians are required to disclose a certain amount of personal information to us before exercising their right to vote, and they expect this information to be protected. Maintaining the trust of electors is a key element in ensuring that the lists of electors are as complete and as accurate as possible. Accordingly, it is incumbent on Elections Canada to ensure that it uses and communicates such information only when doing so is necessary to achieve the objective of the Act. We therefore recommend that dates of birth be removed from the lists of electors provided to election workers on polling day (recommendation I.8). Since the adoption of provisions requiring electors to prove their identity and place of residence at the polling site, including dates of birth on the election workers' lists of electors no longer serves a purpose.
This chapter would be incomplete without recommendations for improving the selection and compensation process for the workers who ensure, in every election, the smooth conduct of the vote. During the last general election, some 236,000 election workers were hired in a span of just over two weeks. The current system hampers the ability of returning officers to recruit and train workers and assign them to suitable tasks. The Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 40th general election of October 14, 2008, describes some of the challenges we had to face. That is why we recommend shortening the period during which parties with the right to do so can submit the names of potential deputy returning officers, poll clerks and registration officers (recommendation I.2). We also recommend that returning officers be able to assign more election workers to polling sites when circumstances warrant it (recommendation I.3).
Finally, we believe that the application of the Expenditure Restraint Act to election staff needs to be reviewed. This law prevents the offering of more attractive compensation to election workers. Amending it would help to meet our recruitment needs for such workers and would allow us to take into consideration the increased duties assigned to some workers as a result of recent legislative changes (recommendation I.4).
Toward a More Adaptable and Effective Electoral Process
I.1 Authority to Conduct Pilot Projects
The Chief Electoral Officer should be authorized to set up and conduct pilot projects during by-elections or general elections, notwithstanding any contrary provision in the Act. Any pilot project would receive the prior consent of the House of Commons committee that considers electoral matters. The authority to conduct pilot projects would make it possible to test various service models for both electors and candidates; the proposal would help improve the effectiveness of the electoral process and the quality of any recommendations that the Chief Electoral Officer may make.
The Canada Elections Act sets out in detail the procedures for the conduct of the vote. Although this is useful for ensuring the integrity of the electoral process, there is no mechanism that allows initiatives for improving the process to be tested.
Analysis and discussion
Under section 535 of the Act, as soon as possible after a general election, the Chief Electoral Officer must report to the Speaker of the House of Commons on any amendments that, in his opinion, are desirable for the better administration of the Act. This important process allows the Chief Electoral Officer, as the administrator of the Act, to inform Parliament of any changes that could improve electoral administration and to correct any weakness identified in the current legislation.
However, given the complexity of the Act and of the processes it seeks to regulate, it is sometimes difficult to make concrete recommendations to Parliament about amendments to the Act without having had the opportunity to test the effectiveness of possible solutions to the problem that was identified. In some cases, recommendations are not put forward despite the existence of a clearly identified deficiency because it is difficult to determine whether the potential solution would indeed improve the situation. In other cases, a recommendation may be made that, if adopted, would necessitate subsequent legislative amendments, as the full impact of the recommendation had not been fully identified at the time that it was made. In light of this, it would be desirable to provide the Chief Electoral Officer with the authority to conduct pilot projects for testing possible amendments to the Act, while setting limits on this power.
Many complex recommendations could be improved by completing pilot projects. For example, the arrangements, roles and responsibilities at polling sites are cumbersome and somewhat ineffective, both from an administrative standpoint and from the point of view of electors, who must at times wait in long lines to vote at their assigned polling station. In New Brunswick, workers at central polling places are not assigned to a specific polling division. Electors can go to the polling station that has the shortest lineup, receive their ballot and exercise their right to vote. This is an interesting concept that offers many opportunities for electoral efficiency. However, it deviates from a long-established process and would need to be further evaluated in light of the specific requirements of the federal legislation as well as the diversity of voting circumstances across Canada's regions. If the Chief Electoral Officer had the opportunity to test such a process in the context of a pilot project, any resulting recommendation would be much more detailed and useful to Parliament.
Another pilot project that could be undertaken by the Chief Electoral Officer to determine the validity of a potential recommendation pertains to the practice, in some countries around the world, of printing the photographs of candidates on the ballot paper or, as some have suggested, of posting these photographs in the polling sites. Since neither of these has ever been the practice in Canada, it is unclear whether the potential benefits to Canadian electors in ensuring that their vote reflects their true intention would justify the operational demands of these initiatives. A pilot project could help assess whether this is a tool that allows more electors to express their true voting intention.
The Ontario legislation gives the province's Chief Electoral Officer the authority, during by-elections, to test voting equipment, vote-counting equipment or alternative voting methods that differ from what is required by the province's electoral legislation.1 A bill currently before the legislature would extend this authority to most of the voting processes established by the Act.2
The concept of pilot projects to test the effectiveness of new ideas, notwithstanding any provision in the Act, already exists in the Act. Indeed, section 18.1 allows the Chief Electoral Officer to test an electronic voting process in the context of by–elections or a general election. It requires the prior approval of the committees of the Senate and of the House of Commons that normally consider electoral matters.3
It is recommended that a similar process be adopted for more general testing of models that would help improve the operation of the Act. Pilot projects would be evaluated after being tested in one or more elections.
Pilot projects would be time-limited, in recognition of Parliament's constitutional role as legislator for Canada. They could be implemented only for the period required by the Chief Electoral Officer to evaluate the effectiveness of the measure being tested and to prepare a recommendation that would be supported by the data gathered during the testing.
Therefore, to allow such processes to be tested in the context of a general election, it is recommended that the maximum duration of a pilot project be set at five years. This would ensure that one general election is held during the period of the pilot project and would provide the Chief Electoral Officer with an additional year after the general election to finalize his recommendation. To ensure that the pilot project does not extend past the period required by the Chief Electoral Officer to formulate his recommendation, it is also suggested that within this five-year maximum duration, the pilot project would terminate one year after polling day for a general election during which it was actually implemented.
All pilot projects would require the approval of the committee of the House of Commons that is responsible for electoral matters before being tested.
I.2 Appointment: Deputy Returning Officers, Poll Clerks and Registration Officers
The process for appointing deputy returning officers, poll clerks and registration officers should be amended so that the electoral district associations or, failing that, the registered parties, rather than the candidates, provide the returning officer with the names of suitable persons to be appointed to these positions, no later than the 28th day before polling day. This recommendation would make it possible to appoint these election officers in a timely manner and to train them earlier.
Before hiring certain election officers, returning officers must contact the candidates of the parties that finished first and second in the previous election to request that they provide a list of persons able to fill positions as deputy returning officers (section 34 of the Canada Elections Act), poll clerks (section 35) and registration officers (section 39). Furthermore, if the returning officer refuses to appoint a deputy returning officer or poll clerk recommended by a candidate, he or she is required to inform the candidate, who may recommend another person (section 37). Last, under section 36 and subsection 39(3), returning officers must wait until the 17th day before polling day to fill those positions using other sources. This is a cumbersome process that makes it difficult to appoint and train election officers within the tight deadlines of an election period.
The proportion of election officers recommended by candidates fell from 42 percent in the 39th general election to 33 percent in the 40th; that proportion was only 3 percent in British Columbia and 2 percent in Alberta.
The fact that candidates have until the 17th day before polling day to provide the names of persons to fill these positions before the returning officer can make the necessary appointments delays the hiring and training of an adequate number of election officers.
As indicated in the Report on the Evaluations of the 40th General Election of October 14, 2008, this represents a major challenge for the administration of the electoral process.
Analysis and discussion
In practice, it is very difficult to request a list of potential election officers from candidates before the 17th day before polling day because the deadline for the confirmation of the candidates is the 19th day before polling day. However, candidates whose nomination has been confirmed at this late date are often not in a position to provide these lists in the two days separating their confirmation and the deadline for the submission of the lists.
Were returning officers not required to solicit the names of potential deputy returning officers, poll clerks and registration officers from candidates, they could begin recruitment earlier and would have more time to adequately train new staff. This is what the Chief Electoral Officer recommended following the 37th general election.
A possible solution would be for the candidates of the parties who finished first and second in the last election to continue to provide the returning officer with the names of suitable persons to be appointed as deputy returning officers, poll clerks and registration officers. The candidates would still have until the 17th day before polling day to provide the lists. The returning officer could, however, start filling these positions as of the issue of the writs.
Another solution would be to ask the electoral district associations or registered parties as necessary, rather than the candidates, to provide the returning officer with the names of suitable persons for the aforementioned positions, no later than the 28th day before polling day.
Given that electoral district associations exist on a continuous basis, they would be in a position to provide these names. The Act could provide that, if there is no registered association, the party would have the right to provide lists of persons suitable for the positions. In our consultations with the political parties, they indicated to us that this was their preferred solution. We recommend this approach.
I.3 Additional Election Officers for Polling Sites
With the authorization of the Chief Electoral Officer, a returning officer should be able to appoint additional election officers, where necessary, to ensure prompt and efficient operations at the advance polls and on polling day. This recommendation would both improve service to electors by reducing congestion at polling sites and help avoid delays in counting the votes.
For several years now, the number of electors voting at the advance polls has been steadily increasing. Election officers who work at the advance polling stations must deal with a larger number of electors, unequally spread out over the three days of advance voting. Furthermore, advance polling procedures are administratively cumbersome. Poll clerks must not only cross out the names of electors on the voters list once the electors have received a ballot; they must also record the name and address of each elector who appears at the polling station to vote, the elector's sequence number on the revised list, the polling division number and whether the elector did indeed vote. Each elector must then sign the record opposite his or her name. Nevertheless, the Canada Elections Act provides for the appointment of fewer election officers for the advance polls than for polling day.
Some advance polling stations and ordinary polling stations, located primarily in high mobility areas or in new residential developments, are also likely to receive a significant number of electors who are not registered on the revised voters list or the official voters list, as the case may be. Often, these electors want to be registered on the voters list and vote at the same time. These additional electors, in numbers difficult to determine in advance, are likely to create congestion in one or more polling stations.
Analysis and discussion
During the 37th general election in 2000, 6 percent of valid ballots were cast at advance polling stations. This proportion rose to 9.2 percent during the 38th general election in 2004, 10.5 percent during the 39th general election in 2006 and 11 percent during the 40th general election in 2008. Thus, during the last election, 1,520,838 electors chose to exercise their right to vote at the advance polls.
The data from the 40th general election show that ordinary polling stations received an average of 188.2 electors, whereas advance polling stations received an average of 376.4 electors. This works out to an average of 125.5 electors per advance voting day.
However, certain electoral districts experienced a voter turnout rate that was significantly higher than the national average, especially since election day coincided with a Jewish religious holiday.4 In the 13 electoral districts where a more significant percentage of the population was affected by the election date, the number of electors who voted in advance more than doubled (72,414, compared with 35,386 in 2006).
During the counting of the votes, deputy returning officers and poll clerks working in an advance polling station must also handle an average of twice as many ballots as deputy returning officers and poll clerks working in an ordinary polling station. Since the ballots cast at an advance polling station are counted only once the polls are closed on election day, a large number of ballots can cause delays in releasing the preliminary results.
With regard to the vote on polling day, the increased responsibilities of deputy returning officers and poll clerks over the past few years require adjustments to the number of election workers at polling places to ensure that the election process runs smoothly. For example, appointing central poll supervisors to handle exceptional or more complicated cases, and registration officers to register electors in locations that have only one or two polling stations, would make it possible to lighten the workload of deputy returning officers and poll clerks at those stations.
To date, two solutions have been considered. One of them is aimed exclusively at advance polling stations.
Solution 1: The solution used to facilitate the vote in certain advance polling stations
To take into account an expected increase in the number of voters at the advance polls in some electoral districts, and the need for more staff to inform electors of the new voter identification requirements being applied for the first time during the last general election, the Chief Electoral Officer adapted the Act under the authority provided by section 17. One adaptation allowed the creation of an additional poll clerk position to assist the deputy returning officer and the poll clerk at advance polling stations, while other adaptations allowed the creation, for advance polling purposes, of registration officer, information officer and central poll supervisor positions. A further adaptation allowed the creation of additional deputy returning officer and poll clerk positions to work in pairs, assisting the deputy returning officer and the poll clerk in counting the votes for advance polls in which more than 750 electors voted.
In the electoral districts where it was used, this approach was effective. It made it possible to better inform electors of the new identification measures, reduce the waiting time for electors wishing to exercise their right to vote at an advance poll, and reduce the time it took to count the votes for certain advance polling stations that received a large number of voters. If this solution was adopted, it would be appropriate to amend the Act to integrate the adaptations made during the 40th general election. However, this solution does not resolve the issues relating to polling stations on election day.
Solution 2: A more general option that applies to both polling stations on election day and advance polling stations
Subsection 22(1) of the Act could be amended by the addition of a new category of election officers. These new election officers would be persons, appointed by the returning officer with the approval of the Chief Electoral Officer, whose presence at a polling site is necessary for the conduct of the vote, be it for an advance poll or on election day.
These officials would perform tasks assigned to them by the returning officer in accordance with the instructions of the Chief Electoral Officer. The tasks would be similar to those performed by the central poll supervisors, registration officers and information officers in polling sites with a larger number of polling stations. These election officers are needed in certain polling sites to facilitate advance polling, to handle the larger number of registrations on polling day and to lighten the deputy returning officers' and poll clerks' increasingly heavy workload.
Other provisions of the Act, including sections 135 and 283, would also need to be amended to allow the presence at the polling station or the advance polling station, or during the counting of the votes, of those election officers to whom the returning officer has assigned tasks, in accordance with the Chief Electoral Officer's instructions.
Such amendments would give the Chief Electoral Officer more flexibility to authorize returning officers to appoint additional election officers in certain polling stations or advance polling stations when the circumstances justify it.
This second solution, which is more flexible than the first, is the one that we are recommending.
I.4 Amending Other Federal Laws to Facilitate the Recruitment of Election Staff
In order to facilitate the recruitment of election workers and ensure that they are fairly compensated for their work, Parliament should consider amending the Expenditure Restraint Act to provide that it does not apply to election staff whose wages are set in the Federal Elections Fees Tariff.
There are increasing difficulties with hiring a sufficient number of election personnel to fill all the positions required to ensure that an election runs smoothly and according to the Canada Elections Act.
During the 40th general election, 236,380 positions were filled by election personnel. Filling the positions is becoming increasingly difficult for returning officers and Elections Canada.
One obstacle to recruitment is the fact that for many people – for example, retirees and employment insurance recipients – accepting employment as an election worker will reduce the benefits they are receiving. Moreover, the wages paid are not very high, especially considering the number of hours that some election workers are called on to work.
A number of solutions have been suggested in the past.5 More recently, members of Parliament have proposed amending legislation in order to increase the incentive for people who are receiving employment insurance benefits or a Guaranteed Income Supplement, or can potentially receive such benefits, to work during an election period.6 Some members of Parliament have also recommended that election staff be exempted from the public sector wage controls in the Expenditure Restraint Act.7
With regard to employment insurance, one possibility would be to exempt claimants who accept employment as an election worker from the deduction applied to benefits in light of earnings received. The amount of the deduction depends upon a number of factors, such as whether the claimant is waiting to receive benefits or is currently in receipt of benefits. Claimants for whom the waiting period has passed can earn only 25 percent of their weekly benefit rate if that rate is $200 or more.8 Allowing employment insurance claimants to keep all or a greater portion of the income earned as an election worker may increase their incentive to work during an election period.
A second possibility would be to provide that all hours worked by a person in connection with a federal election constitute insurable earnings for the purposes of employment insurance. At present, paragraph 8(1)(c) of the Employment Insurance Regulations9 provides that the hours worked by a person who is employed in connection with an election or referendum are not insurable if that person is employed for fewer than 35 hours in any year and is not regularly employed by Elections Canada.
The result is that for many election workers, such as those hired for polling day who work for fewer than 20 hours, the hours they work at the election are not insurable. It is suggested that if potential election workers were aware that their hours would count toward the minimum number of insurable hours required to receive benefits, they may be more attracted to these positions.
During consultations on this recommendation, officials in the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development noted that a pilot project currently underway provides that claimants can keep earnings up to 40 percent of their rate of weekly benefits during their benefit period (rather than 25 percent, as provided by the Act) before their benefits are reduced on account of those earnings.10 The pilot project will run until December 2010.
With respect to the possibility of making all hours worked insurable hours, the Department's officials noted that while that approach could be advantageous for some workers, it must be understood that employment insurance premiums would then be deducted from the earnings paid to all election staff; this is not currently the case for the vast majority because they work less than 35 hours. Moreover, the regulations could not be amended until all the provincial, territorial and municipal electoral administrations to which they apply were consulted.
Guaranteed Income Supplement
Under the Old Age Security Act, the Guaranteed Income Supplement is reduced by one dollar for each two dollars of income received in a calendar year.11 The Act provides a number of exemptions to this deduction, including a full exemption for the first $3,500 earned in a year, as well as exemptions for various types of income.12 Consideration could be given to adding compensation paid to election staff to the types of exempted income.
As noted by other officials in the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, which is also responsible for running that program, few election staff earn the maximum above which the Guaranteed Income Supplement is reduced. Moreover, it may be unfair to create an exemption for a higher amount that would apply to the few election staff who work in the office of the returning officer and receive compensation over $3,500, compared with individuals whose income level would be about the same but who would not be entitled to the Guaranteed Income Supplement or would be entitled only to a small benefit.
Expenditure Restraint Act
The Expenditure Restraint Act was put in place to limit public sector wage increases. It applies to election personnel and prohibits wage increases even if the duties of an election worker have changed. The Act also prevents the Federal Elections Fees Tariff from being modified to provide for increases in the fees paid at a level higher than that authorized in that Act even if such an increase is considered necessary to meet the demand for election staff, either because of increased duties or the inadequacy of the existing pay. Parliament may, therefore, wish to exempt election personnel from the scope of the Expenditure Restraint Act.
I.5 Candidates' Representatives: Appointment, Administration of Oath and Movement While Ballots Are Counted
A candidate's representatives should be sworn in by the central poll supervisor or by the deputy returning officer of the first polling station visited at a polling site. Once sworn in, representatives should be able to act in all the polling stations for which they have been appointed and which are located in that polling site, without having to take the oath again.
The Act should also be amended to enable the candidate's representatives to move between polling stations that are located in the same room during the counting of the ballots.
These measures would make the current rules more flexible and the electoral process more efficient.
Candidates are experiencing more and more difficulty in recruiting a sufficient number of representatives to act at polling stations. Many candidates now appoint a limited number of representatives for the entire electoral district. These representatives go from one polling site to the next, and within each polling site, observing the polling operations and collecting the statement of electors who have voted on polling day.
The current procedure for appointing representatives and administering the oath is rigid. Representatives appointed to more than one polling station must carry a separate written authorization signed by the candidate or the candidate's official agent for each polling station to which they are appointed. They must present this authorization and take a new oath at every polling station they visit for the first time.
Furthermore, the Canada Elections Act does not enable representatives to move from one polling station to another once the counting of the ballots is underway. A passport system valid for all polling stations located in the same room where the counting takes place is proposed to resolve this problem.
The representative could be sworn in by either the central poll supervisor, or by the deputy returning officer of the first polling station visited at a polling site, as the case may be. The election officer administering the oath would then complete the form – in particular, by signing it and by recording his or her name and position.
The duly completed appointment and oath form would be valid for all polling stations to which the representative is appointed and which are located in that polling site.
The Act should also enable representatives appointed to more than one polling station located in the same room to move from one polling station to another within that room during the counting of the ballots. At the closing of the poll, the door to the room where the counting takes place would be closed, and no one would be admitted until the ballots have all been counted.
These amendments would give candidates more flexibility in managing the work of their volunteers. The first amendment would also lighten the work of the deputy returning officers when a new representative arrives. The second amendment would enable a candidate's representative to witness the counting of the ballots underway at polling stations located in the same room. However, it would not compromise the integrity of the vote, since any representative who leaves the room where the counting takes place may not be readmitted once the counting of the ballots is underway.
I.6 Revision of Preliminary Lists of Electors: By-election Superseded by a General Election
In the case of a by-election superseded by a general election, a mechanism should be provided whereby revisions of the preliminary lists of electors approved for the superseded by-election can be used for the purposes of the general election. This measure would spare election officers from conducting the same revision work twice and would thus improve the efficiency of the electoral process.
Under the Canada Elections Act, the preliminary lists of electors must be revised as soon as possible after the writ is issued.
The preliminary lists of electors are produced using the data in the National Register of Electors. The purpose of the revision is to add the names of electors who were not previously registered, to correct information on electors whose names are already on the lists and to delete the names of persons who should not be on the lists.13 Under subsection 97(2) of the Act, all revisions of the lists must be approved by the returning officer or the assistant returning officer.
Returning officers transmit changes to the lists of electors made during the election period to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer. As soon as possible after the election, the Chief Electoral Officer prepares the final lists for each electoral district.
The situation becomes more difficult with respect to changes made to the preliminary lists of electors when a by-election in an electoral district is superseded by a general election.
In that situation, the changes to the lists of electors approved during the revision process for the by-election are never incorporated into the National Register of Electors, as they would only have been incorporated after polling day. When the general election is called, the preliminary lists of electors are prepared again using the data in the Register, and, in most cases, the process of approving the changes requested during the by-election has to be done all over again.
This is because the Act provides no mechanism deeming that revisions approved during a by-election are approved for the purposes of the general election superseding the by-election. It is understood that the returning officer and the assistant returning officer have access to all changes made to the preliminary lists of electors during the by-election, but still, the approval process must be redone.
When the 40th general election was called, the revision was completed in the four electoral districts for which the by-election writs were superseded by the general election writs. The Chief Electoral Officer had to adapt14 section 96 of the Act by reason of that exceptional circumstance so that all revisions of the preliminary lists of electors approved during the by-election were deemed to be approved as of the starting date of the revision of the preliminary lists of electors for the general election.
Such a procedure does not put an end to the revision but makes it possible to include in the revised lists the changes already made during the revision for the superseded by-election.
I.7 Custody of Ballot Boxes Following the Advance Polls
The returning officer should be authorized to recover ballot boxes left in the custody of one or more deputy returning officers when instructed to do so by the Chief Electoral Officer or when the returning officer feels that it would be advisable in order to better protect the integrity of the vote. This recommendation would enable returning officers to adopt an approach suited to the circumstances, with a view to preserving electors' trust in the electoral process and in the care given to their ballots from the time they are placed in the ballot box to the time the votes are counted.
Subsection 175(5) of the Canada Elections Act provides that: "In the intervals between voting hours at the advance polling station and until the counting of the ballots on polling day, the deputy returning officer shall keep the sealed ballot box in his or her custody."
Presently, there is no provision in the Act to allow the recovery of ballot boxes in the custody of deputy returning officers when the returning officer or the Chief Electoral Officer has reason to believe that it would be more appropriate to not leave one or more ballot boxes in the custody of one or more deputy returning officers.
During the 40th general election, the Chief Electoral Officer had to adapt section 175 of the Act to authorize the returning officer to recover, with staff assistance, ballot boxes in the custody of deputy returning officers.15
Analysis and discussion
As the size of electoral districts in Canada varies, the proposed solutions must reconcile the obligation to ensure the integrity of the vote, on the one hand, with the need for flexibility to manage the logistics of storing and transporting the ballot boxes safely and efficiently, on the other. Two solutions are analyzed in light of these factors.
Solution 1: The approach used in Nova Scotia and Quebec
Provincial electoral law in Nova Scotia provides that, on the close of an advance poll, the deputy returning officer shall deliver the ballot box to the returning officer. The ballot box remains in the custody of the returning officer until the counting of the votes on election day. The law also provides that the returning officer may direct the deputy returning officer to retain custody of the ballot box. The general rule, therefore, grants custody of the ballot box to the returning officer, while the exception grants custody to the deputy returning officer.
Somewhat similarly, Quebec's provincial electoral law states that after each day of advance polling, the deputy returning officer returns the ballot box to the returning officer or to the individual designated by the returning officer.
As is the case in Nova Scotia, the returning officer generally maintains custody of the ballot box. The chief electoral officer of Quebec requests that returning officers store the ballot boxes in their offices, but provides exceptions for electoral districts that cover a wide territory. In those electoral districts, the returning officer designates another election officer, such as an assistant returning officer, to maintain custody of the ballot box or boxes in a centralized location.
The returning officer must also manage and document exceptions in cases where the ballot box is kept in the custody of the deputy returning officer.
In this solution, the risk that someone will try to alter the results of the vote is low. However, having all the ballot boxes in one place and transporting a large number of ballot boxes in one vehicle increases the risk of significant loss in the event of theft or natural disaster.
Such a solution is also harder to apply in large electoral districts,16 where great distances separate the polling stations from the office of the returning officer or the additional assistant returning officer. In these large electoral districts, it would be practically impossible for the returning officer to recover the ballot boxes in the intervals between the various advance polling days.
This solution can be adjusted, for example, by granting custody of the ballot box to the deputy returning officer in the intervals between the advance polling days. However, this adjustment does not change much in the way of risks associated with transporting and storing ballot boxes in a central location. In addition, such a solution would be easily applied only in urban areas.
Solution 2: The solution used during the 40th general election
A second solution consists of making permanent the temporary procedure implemented through adaptation during the 40th general election. The deputy returning officers would keep the sealed ballot boxes in their custody in the intervals between voting hours at the advance polls and up to the counting of the votes on election day. However, the returning officer would be authorized to recover ballot boxes in the custody of one or more deputy returning officers when the returning officer believes that it is important to do so to better ensure the security of the ballot boxes.
This solution is in line with the historical continuity of federal elections in Canada. The concept of storing election materials at the home of a deputy returning officer was, in fact, introduced into electoral law in the second half of the 1940s.
Presently, deputy returning officers are under oath to ensure the security of the voting materials in their trust and are required to provide the returning officer with contact information so that materials can be recovered whenever necessary.
The risk associated with this solution is shared equally among deputy returning officers who have custody of a ballot box. Should a ballot box be lost, only the votes cast by a limited number of voters would be affected. Measures enabling voters in the affected polling division to exercise their right to vote again could be considered and implemented through adaptations to the provisions of the Act.
This solution also enables returning officers to react quickly to recover a ballot box when they have reason to believe that the integrity of the electoral process could be compromised.
This is the solution we are recommending.
I.8 Protection of Electors' Personal Information
The date of birth of electors should be removed from the revised list of electors and from the official list of electors used by the deputy returning officer to conduct the vote. This would reduce the risk of misuse of this piece of personal information, which is not required for voter identification purposes.
In addition, the definition of "election documents" should be amended to include all forms used at the polling station to collect personal information on an elector. These forms would thus benefit from the increased protection afforded election documents.
These two changes would help protect electors' personal information.
The importance of protecting electors' personal information is the principle that links the two recommendations included in this section. With regard to the first recommendation, it should be noted that in her 2009 report entitled Privacy Management Frameworks of Selected Federal Institutions, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada reiterated her concern about the inclusion of the date of birth on the lists of electors used by election officers on polling days.
Analysis and discussion
Date of birth on the list of electors provided to the deputy returning officer
An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act, S.C. 2007, c. 21 (Bill C-31) amended section 107 of the Canada Elections Act by replacing subsections 2 and 3 of that section. The purpose of that amendment was to add to the revised list of electors and the official list of electors, used by the deputy returning officer, the date of birth of each elector appearing on the lists.
At the same time, the Act was also amended to set out a new procedure for verifying the identity and the address of an elector who comes to vote at a polling station. That procedure contains no provision for verifying the date of birth. At most, if there are reasonable doubts as to whether an individual who intends to vote is, in fact, eligible, the deputy returning officer, the poll clerk, the candidate's representative or the candidate may ask that individual to swear a prescribed oath. The individual will be admitted to vote only if he or she swears the oath.
There is, therefore, no reason for the elector's date of birth to be contained on the lists used by the deputy returning officer to conduct the vote. The date of birth is sensitive personal information, the misuse of which can have adverse consequences, including identity theft. Such incidents are likely to weaken Canadians' trust in the integrity of our system and could make electors hesitant to register on the Register of Electors. To increase the protection of personal information entrusted to the Chief Electoral Officer, it is recommended that section 107 be amended to remove the obligation to indicate each elector's date of birth on those lists.
Definition of "election documents"
Personal information required to be collected at polling stations under the Act may have to be made public by the Chief Electoral Officer.
In some circumstances, deputy returning officers and poll clerks are required to collect personal information regarding electors. That information is entered on forms as required by the Act. The following forms are some examples:
- Record of Electors Voting by Registration Certificate
- Record of Electors Requiring an Oath
- Record of Electors in Whose Names Someone Has Already Voted
- Record of Electors Voting by Transfer Certificate
These forms all contain personal information within the meaning of section 3 of the Privacy Act.
To ensure the transparency and integrity of the electoral process, the Canada Elections Act establishes two categories of documents. By defining the expression "election documents" in subsection 2(1), the Act ensures that this category of document is treated differently.
Indeed, section 540 sets out strict conditions for the retention of election documents. The objective is to keep in a safe place all documents that validate the integrity of the electoral process and confirm the election results. Only certain persons may have access to election documents, including the Chief Electoral Officer, the Commissioner of Canada Elections and a judge of a superior court. The documents protected under section 540 include the writ, nomination papers, ballots and the list of electors used at a polling station.
The forms that are used at polling stations and that contain personal information on electors, however, are not protected under section 540 as they do not fall under the definition of "election documents." Under section 541, "all other reports or statements, other than election documents" constitute public records. In the law's current state, therefore, a form that is used at the polling station and that contains personal information on an elector may be the subject of a request for release under section 541 of the Act. As a result, there is a risk that the Chief Electoral Officer will be required to disclose personal information that would otherwise be protected.
All personal information collected at polling stations serves to ensure the integrity of the voting process. It should, therefore, receive the full protection accorded to election documents under the Act and be retained with them.
To achieve this objective, the definition of "election documents" could be amended to specify each form used at polling stations that must receive the protection accorded under section 540. That solution is cumbersome, however, and would complicate future updating of the Act or administrative practices.
It is recommended instead that the definition of "election documents" be amended to include, generally, forms used to collect personal information on electors at polling stations. This solution would ensure the longer-term protection of personal information collected at polling stations, while allowing for the evolution of the format and content of the forms.
I.9 Partisan Signs Outside Polling Sites
It should be prohibited to post or display material that could be taken as promoting or opposing a party or the election of a candidate on or within 100 metres of premises in which a polling site or office of the returning officer is located.
Election officers should also be authorized to take down or have taken down any posted or displayed material that contravenes the Act.
These measures would enhance the confidence of electors, who would be afforded an impartial environment near the polling site, devoid of partisan signs.
Paragraph 166(1)(a) of the Canada Elections Act provides the following:
166. (1) No person shall
(a) post or display in, or on the exterior surface of, a polling place any campaign literature or other material that could be taken as an indication of support for or opposition to a political party that is listed on the ballot under the name of a candidate or the election of a candidate;
166. (1) Il est interdit :
a) d'afficher ou d'exhiber à l'intérieur d'une salle de scrutin ou sur les aires extérieures de celle-ci du matériel de propagande qui pourrait être tenu comme favorisant un parti politique mentionné sur le bulletin de vote sous le nom d'un candidat ou l'élection d'un candidat, ou s'opposant à un tel parti ou à l'élection d'un candidat;
This provision of the Act is essential: it enables the creation and maintenance of a neutral zone around polling sites, where electors may exercise their right to vote without undue influence.
Still, during each election, the Chief Electoral Officer receives many questions regarding the interpretation that should be given to the expression "on the exterior surface [of] a polling place."
Some individuals interpret that expression broadly, extending the prohibition to the entire site on which a polling site is located.
Others interpret it quite strictly, limiting the prohibition to the exterior walls of a polling site. From this perspective, posting a banner or sign on a removable medium a few centimetres from the exterior wall would be acceptable.
These different interpretations lead to the inconsistent application of the provision throughout the country.
With regard to partisan signs near the office of the returning officer, the Act does not address this matter at present. The returning officers, who must ensure that they protect their impartiality and neutrality, have to rely on the goodwill of candidates to prevent partisan signs from being posted near their office.
Analysis and discussion
Partisan signs near polling sites
Prohibiting signs from being posted near a polling site is not new.
The proposed amendment is aimed only at clarifying this prohibition, which would now apply to the entire site of the polling place as well as to any area within 100 metres of such a place that may be seen from its entrance (for example, a sign posted on the other side of the street facing the entrance of the polling site or a sign posted on a vehicle chartered to transport electors that would be parked across from the polling site).
Admittedly, this is a restriction of the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, in our view, this restriction is justified in a free and democratic society. The prohibition applies only to the three advance polling days and to polling day. The prohibition is also limited geographically. Last, the proposed extension of the prohibition will ensure a neutral area around polling sites, where electors will be able to make their choice free of any influence.
Partisan signs near the office of the returning officer
Prohibiting signs from being posted near the office of a returning officer would be new. It would enable a neutral area to be created around these offices, protecting returning officers from the appearance of bias that could arise from having a partisan sign posted near their office. In addition, since electors are authorized to vote at these offices throughout the election period under the Special Voting Rules, this is a logical extension of the prohibition already made under paragraph 166(1)(a).
This restriction would apply throughout the election period, but in a reduced area at the electoral district level.
Powers of election officers
The Act should also provide that election officers be authorized to take down or have taken down any campaign sign or other such material that is posted or displayed in contravention of the provision.
I.10 Registration of Electors by Internet
To facilitate the registration of electors over the Internet, the Chief Electoral Officer should be authorized to accept an appropriate mode of authentication and to determine the manner in which electors would establish their identity and residence electronically. In addition, the Chief Electoral Officer's authority should be clarified as it relates to the retention of information he receives from sources authorized under the Act concerning persons 18 years of age or older who do not appear in the Register. Retention of this information would enable consenting, qualified electors to register electronically.
This recommendation would improve the accessibility of the electoral process by offering electors an additional service that is faster and more readily available. It would also improve the quality of the information contained in the lists of electors.
Registering electors for the vote is an important component of the electoral process. In the 1990s, Canada moved from a system that created lists of electors based on door-to-door enumeration after the writ for an election had been issued to the establishment of a permanent register of electors from which preliminary lists are drawn and then revised and used during an election.17 Statutory provisions require the Chief Electoral Officer to update the Register of Electors with information from various sources. While the system has generally worked well since its adoption,18 it does not take full advantage of advances in the area of Internet communications.
Implementing a comprehensive system of on-line registration would enable electors to register and would provide them with the ability to confirm, update or change their registration information. It is particularly useful for young people. As noted by Professor Keith Archer, "In view of the fact that young citizens tend to use the Internet more, on-line voter registration systems are likely to be particularly effective in increasing registration among youth."19
Of course, such an initiative must ensure that the integrity of the Register of Electors is maintained, and it must be done within the legislative framework set out in the Canada Elections Act. Since the intent is to allow on-line registration and corrections both during and between elections, the system would permit that the information provided on-line by electors be used to update the Register between elections, as well as the lists of electors prepared by returning officers in the electoral districts during elections.20
However, the implementation of an on-line registration system requires some adjustments to the Act.
Analysis and discussion
Alberta and British Columbia offer their electors the option to register on-line as well as to verify and update their registration information. Similarly, Quebec has a system that allows electors to verify their information on-line during an election. Moreover, Elections Ontario is currently developing an on-line voter registration system.
Certain provisions of the Act constitute an impediment to the full implementation of a comprehensive electronic registration system. For example, while there is no explicit requirement in section 101 to obtain an elector's signature during revision of the lists of electors in an election period – including the registration of new electors – and thus the Act appears to be flexible enough to allow an electronic registration system, the provisions that deal with registration between elections require that, to register, a person must certify his or her qualification as an elector with a signature (section 49). Similarly, the provision that allows the Chief Electoral Officer to request that an individual confirm or correct the information received from an authorized source, and provide signed certification of the individual's qualification as an elector in order to be added to the Register (section 48), constitutes an impediment to on-line registration.
While a signed certification may be appropriate when a paper process is contemplated, there are other ways of having individuals validate their qualification as electors that are more compatible with an electronic process. Of note, electors in both British Columbia and Alberta can register on-line without signing a certification. Consequently, it is recommended that the requirement in subsection 49(1) for a signed certification in the case of a request regarding the National Register of Electors21 be reconsidered.
Another statutory obstacle to the implementation of an electronic registration system is the definition of satisfactory proof of identity and residence found in subsection 2(3). Authentication of the elector's identity will unquestionably be a key element in ensuring trust in the integrity of the new system. Sections 101 and 49 both require an elector to provide satisfactory proof of identity. This requirement is defined as follows in the Act:
2. (3) For the purposes of this Act, satisfactory proof of an elector's identity and satisfactory proof of residence are established by the documentary proof of the elector's identity and residence that is prescribed by the Chief Electoral Officer.
2. (3) Pour l'application de la présente loi, la preuve suffisante d'identité et la preuve suffisante de résidence sont établies par la production de pièces d'identité déterminées par le directeur général des élections.
While the English version is written in a manner that could allow an elector to prove identity and residence with reference only to one particular document, the French version appears to be more explicit in requiring "la production de pièces d'identité." If the identification document itself must be produced, then it will be impossible to devise an electronic registration system similar to the one used in both British Columbia and Alberta, where electors enter their driver's licence number to establish identity.22 It is, therefore, recommended that the requirement for "documentary proof" and "la production de pièces d'identité" as prescribed by the Chief Electoral Officer be removed from subsection 2(3) and that satisfactory proof of one's identity and residence instead be established in the manner determined by the Chief Electoral Officer.23
Another difficulty in implementing an electronic voter registration system could arise if Elections Canada were unable to retain information it receives on individuals who are not registered electors. Indeed, it would then be impossible for the agency to retain any information that could later be used by these individuals for authentication purposes when they register on-line.
Elections Canada believes that the Act currently provides the authority for the Chief Electoral Officer to retain information about individuals 18 years of age or older who are not registered, when that information comes from one of the authorized sources mentioned in section 46 of the Act. Indeed, section 48 provides that the Chief Electoral Officer may contact such individuals to ask that they confirm the information that the Chief Electoral Officer has about them and to certify their qualification as electors if they wish to become registered.
That said, the wording of paragraph 46(1)(b) and section 48 could be interpreted as meaning that the Chief Electoral Officer has the ability to ask electors only whether the information received about them from an authorized source is accurate and to certify their qualification as electors if they wish to register.
If such an interpretation of the current provisions were adopted, and the Chief Electoral Officer were not explicitly authorized to retain information about individuals (as opposed to electors), then it would be difficult to justify the retention of any information received from update sources. Indeed, it would be impossible to determine in advance whether the information related to a person who qualified as an elector.
It should be noted that allowing Elections Canada to retain additional identifier information about unregistered individuals to facilitate their subsequent on-line registration was recommended in Completing the Cycle of Electoral Reforms – Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 38th General Election.24 The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs supported this recommendation in its report Improving the Integrity of the Electoral Process: Recommendations for Legislative Change.25 The recommendation to also authorize the retention of additional identifier information seeks to clarify the existing authority to retain data that is included in the Register upon an elector's registration.
It is therefore recommended that the Act also be amended to clarify the Chief Electoral Officer's authority to retain information about unregistered individuals who are 18 years of age or older if that information has been provided by one of the authorized sources for updates mentioned in section 46 (for instance, provincial registrars of motor vehicles).26
Electors should be able to vouch for more than one member of their immediate family (for example, a spouse, a parent, a grandparent or an adult child, grandchild or sibling). An elector vouching for more than one family member would be required to take an oath confirming the family relationship that exists with each person for whom he or she vouches. This exception to the prohibition against vouching for more than one person at an election would apply only to family members living at the same address as the voucher. It would make the voting process more accessible to members of the same family and would be of particular benefit to young people and Aboriginal families.
Vouching is the option that the Canada Elections Act provides for electors without the required pieces of identification to prove their identity and address before registering to vote at a polling station or before voting. However, restrictions on vouching, which were adopted to protect the integrity of the vote, diminish the usefulness of this option in some circumstances.
For instance, in the case of families who have recently moved, a person with the necessary pieces of identification27 must choose a single family member for whom to vouch. Finding another voucher outside of the household may be a challenge for new residents of a polling division since the Act states that vouching must be done by an elector who is registered to vote in the same polling division.
Allowing an elector to vouch for more than one family member would be a partial solution to this problem, particularly for families with young adults, who do not have many pieces of identification with which to prove their residence. It could also help address the challenges experienced by Aboriginal electors during the 40th general election. In addition, this measure is secure and efficient.
Analysis and discussion
Vouching consists of having one elector who is registered to vote in the same polling division as another elector – and who has established his or her identity and residence by showing the required pieces of identification – confirm under oath the identity and residence of that other elector, who must also swear an oath.
When the new Act was adopted in 2000, it permitted vouching only in the context of polling day registration. At that time, to address concerns about the risk of voter fraud,28 a prohibition was also included against vouching for more than one elector at the same election. The vouching process then in existence did not require that the elector vouching for another elector provide documentary proof of his or her identity or residence.
When An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act29 (Bill C-31) was adopted in 2007, the vouching process as it then existed in the context of polling day registration was used as a model for new vouching mechanisms, this time applying to registration at an advance poll as well as to voting itself. The vouching process was modified in two ways: first, the person doing the vouching must prove his or her identity and residence by showing the required identification; and second, someone who was vouched for at an election could not thereafter vouch for another person at the same election ("serial vouching"). The prohibition against multiple vouching is maintained for polling day registrations and is also applied to the procedures developed for voting and for registration at an advance poll.
Since electors who vouch for another must now provide documentary proof of their identity and residence before they may act in that capacity, the concerns expressed by parliamentarians in 2000 that multiple vouching could compromise the integrity of the electoral process may no longer be as pressing. There was concern at the time that someone could vouch for another by simply pretending to be an elector whose name was found on the list of electors for the polling division. However, proof of identity and residence is now required since the adoption of the 2007 amendments.
Furthermore, since they must establish their identity and residence before vouching, electors who vouch for another can now be held accountable, in a case of voter fraud, for having taken a false oath as to the person's identity or residence. More specifically, it is possible for the Commissioner of Canada Elections to investigate any allegation of wrongdoing with respect to vouching by contacting the elector who acted as the voucher. This also increases the chances of identifying and charging the person who registered or voted fraudulently with the help of the elector who acted as the voucher.
If Parliament is reluctant to remove the prohibition against multiple vouching altogether, the current requirement to prove identity and residence before vouching for another elector would at the very least support revisiting the scope of the prohibition. Indeed, since the vouching process itself was made more stringent in 2007, multiple vouching could be justified in certain circumstances.
In British Columbia, another province where the person vouching for another must provide documentary proof of his or her identity and residence, multiple vouching is allowed in specific circumstances. In fact, an elector may vouch for more than one person if they are members of his or her immediate family (defined as a spouse, a parent, a grandparent or an adult child, grandchild or sibling). An elector who is authorized by legislation or common law to make decisions about the personal care of one or more other persons may also vouch for them.30 In Quebec, the legislation also authorizes multiple vouching for members of an elector's family.31
At the federal level, while the measures ushered in by the 2007 legislative amendments are working fairly well, it may be desirable to improve the system by allowing electors to vouch for more than one person if the latter are members of their immediate family, as is currently done in British Columbia. This would spare a parent with two children of voting age who recently moved into a new polling division from having to choose which of the two the parent will help to register and vote.
An exception could thus be made to allow the person in the family who has the required identification to vouch for all other members of the immediate family. This person could be required to sign a written oath beforehand, confirming his or her relationship with each person being vouched for. In case of allegations of wrongdoing, it would be possible for the Commissioner of Canada Elections to investigate.
This exception to the prohibition against multiple vouching would also be especially useful in addressing the challenges experienced by Aboriginal electors who, in the 40th general election, were less likely to have brought the required pieces of identification with them to the polls.32
As a means of maintaining public confidence in the integrity of the process, this exception to the prohibition against vouching for more than one person could be limited to vouching for members of the immediate family who live at the same address as the elector doing the vouching.33
The option of further restricting multiple vouching for one's immediate family members by authorizing only vouchers already registered on the voters list to vouch for more than one member of their immediate family was considered, but rejected. Given that an unregistered voucher must provide proof of identity and address to register on polling day and act as voucher, the same safeguards for the integrity of the vote would be in place regardless of whether the vouching elector was already registered. Furthermore, it would make the exception unavailable to families who had recently moved into a new polling division. Such families constitute one of the target groups for which the exception is likely to offer the greatest benefit, as noted earlier.
1 Election Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.6, s. 4.1.
2 The concept of pilot projects also exists in other federal legislation. For example, the Employment Insurance Act (S.C. 1996, c. 23, s. 109 and 110) provides that, notwithstanding anything else in that Act, the Canada Employment Insurance Commission may, with the approval of the Governor in Council, test new processes using pilot projects. Whereas in the employment insurance field the pilot project is authorized through a regulation by the Governor in Council, such a process would not be consistent with the nature and structure of the Canada Elections Act. That is why, in section 18.1, the authority to approve the project was conferred on the committees of the House and of the Senate.
3 The concept of pilot projects also exists in other federal legislation. For example, the Employment Insurance Act (S.C. 1996, c. 23, s. 109 and 110) provides that, notwithstanding anything else in that Act, the Canada Employment Insurance Commission may, with the approval of the Governor in Council, test new processes using pilot projects. Whereas in the employment insurance field the pilot project is authorized through a regulation by the Governor in Council, such a process would not be consistent with the nature and structure of the Canada Elections Act. That is why, in section 18.1, the authority to approve the project was conferred on the committees of the House and of the Senate
4 Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 40th General Election of October 14, 2008, pp. 27, 29.
5 Some possibilities are outlined in the report on the 40th general election.
6 See discussion, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, February 24, 2009, and October 8, 2009.
7 S.C. 2009, c. 2, Part 10. See discussion, Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, October 8, 2009.
8 Employment Insurance Act, S.C. 1996, c. 23, ss. 19(2).
10 Employment Insurance Regulations, s. 778, SOR/2008-257, s. 2.
11 Loi sur la sécurité de la vieillesse,L.R.C. 1985, ch. O-Old Age Security Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. O-9, ss. 12(1).
12 Old Age Security Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. O-9, ss. 2(1) "income".
13 Section 99 of the Canada Elections Act.
14 Under the power to adapt set out in subsection 17(1) of the Act.
15 The Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 40th General Election of October 14, 2008, contains, on p. 28, a description of the events that led to the recovery of some ballot boxes in the electoral district of Québec.
16 The electoral districts of the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut cover an average of 1,307,246 km2. Certain federal electoral districts in the provinces also cover large areas. For example, the electoral districts of Churchill, Manicouagan and Skeena—Bulkley Valley cover an average area of 345,698 km2.
17The National Register of Electors was created after the adoption of Bill C-63 (S.C. 1996, c. 35).
18 The Register currently includes 93 percent of eligible electors, 84 percent of whom are listed at their current address.
19 "Increasing Youth Voter Registration: Best Practices in Targeting Young Electors," Electoral Insight, Vol. 5, No. 2, July 2003, p. 29.
20 This is, to a certain extent, different from what occurs in the two provinces that allow on-line registration since there is no revision of the list of electors permitted during an election in Alberta, and such revisions are only allowed in the first week of the 28-day election calendar in British Columbia.
21 See also recommendation III.3, Electronic Signatures and Transactions – General Clause.
22 Alternatively, British Columbia accepts the last six numbers of an elector's social insurance number for authentication, while Alberta accepts the number on the individual's Alberta provincial identification card.
23 This change would not affect the identification requirements for registering and voting at a polling station. In fact, there are specific provisions describing the acceptable pieces of identification for those purposes. See section 143, as well as sections 161 and 169 that refer to it.
24 Recommendation 2.8, p. 57: "The ability to refer to such additional identifier information would also likely be of value to electors in any on-line registration and updating process that Elections Canada may develop in the future, as was done in British Columbia leading up to its recent election." The recommendation was to allow the Chief Electoral Officer to retain identifier information in addition to information that subsection 44(2) of the Act provides explicit statutory authority to retain in the Register – namely, an individual's name, sex, date of birth, civic address and mailing address.
25 The Committee's 13th report, presented to the House of Commons in June 2006. In its response, the Government also supported this recommendation.
26 This information would not be included in the Register; it would be retained to validate the elector's identity once he or she applies for registration. Section 4 of the Privacy Act would continue to apply. This provision prevents a government institution from retaining personal information unless it relates directly to one of its operating programs or activities. In a February 2009 audit report, the Privacy Commissioner commented that, in her view, Elections Canada does not have the authority to retain information about 16- and 17-year-old drivers since these individuals are too young to vote and their information is not directly related to an Elections Canada operating program. Elections Canada no longer plans to collect information on young people under the age of 18. In the case of adults whose citizenship is unknown, Elections Canada retains the information with a view to adding new electors to the Register, in accordance with the Act, once their citizenship has been confirmed.
27 For example, a lease or mortgage agreement to prove residence.
28 See the review of section 161 of Bill C-2 by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on December 1, 1999.
29 S.C. 2007, c. 21.
30 Election Act, RSBC 1996, c. 106, s. 41.1 and 96.
31 Election Act, R.S.Q., c. E-3.3, s. 335.2 b).
32 According to the Report on the Evaluations of the 40th General Election of October 14, 2008, 11 percent of Aboriginal electors did not bring the required identification with them. See pp. 9–10 of that report.
33 The Act currently allows vouching for another elector living in the same polling division.