Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 37th General Election Held on November 27, 2000
This four-part report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada covers the administration of Elections Canada since the 36th general election, and the events of the 37th general election of November 27, 2000.
Part I reviews Elections Canada's main activities since the last general election on June 2, 1997, based on three strategic priorities: maintaining a constant state of readiness to deliver elections, by-elections and referendums; delivering by-elections; and offering public information programs and supporting parliamentarians and other Canadians as they deal with electoral issues.
The National Register of Electors was ready to produce preliminary voters lists by the time the first by-election of the 36th Parliament was called, for March 1998. Between March 1998 and September 2000, we administered 10 by-elections. Developments in electoral geography and information technology improved our ability to prepare for electoral events, and we undertook a training program for returning officers. We maintained readiness to deliver electoral events under the former Canada Elections Act at the same time as we prepared to implement the new Act that came into force on September 1, 2000. New features on our Web site and programs for young people highlighted our public education and information activities, and we expanded our relations with registered political parties, the academic community and international organizations.
Part II describes and analyzes the November 27, 2000, general election under 10 themes, underlining Elections Canada's role in making voting accessible by reaching out to all electors and by using technology creatively.
The launch of the election period occurred on October 22. On the whole, setting up local offices, activating computer systems, hiring staff, putting our Web site on an election footing, and supporting the media proceeded as planned.
The system of special ballots again was available to electors who could not or who preferred not to vote at their own polling stations during the advance polls or on election day. Across Canada, 138 065 local electors requested ballots under the Special Voting Rules, and we issued special ballots to 33 679 national electors (including 6 487 hospitalized electors) and 19 230 international electors. In the Canadian Forces, 57 082 electors were registered to vote; 5 521 incarcerated persons serving sentences of less than two years also registered.
Reaching out to electors with relevant, timely information was an important function of our communications program during the election, first through a pamphlet delivered to every household, and then through advertising. The election marked our largest effort to reach young electors directly, and we also had programs for Aboriginal electors, members of ethnocultural communities and electors with special needs. Our Web site included special election features and a new section devoted to youth, and we made extensive arrangements to meet the needs of the media.
Returning officers were responsible for being ready in the ridings, and they and their key staff were given advance training on the new legislation and procedures. For election day, they would set up 883 mobile polls and 56 822 polling stations in 17 340 polling places, paying particular attention to accessibility. Hiring and training some 166 000 local staff was occasionally challenging, but new electronic systems and the Elections Canada Support Network eased the administrative burden somewhat. No emergencies required the use of our contingency plans, and remote areas were served as usual.
In general, preparing the voters lists from the National Register of Electors for the first time in a general election proceeded as planned. The quality of the Register's data was close to our reliability target, and the individual voter information cards reached some 80 percent of electors at the correct address, as projected. Revising the various voters lists (including all revisions and election day registrations) produced more than 3.6 million changes.
The new Act introduced changes in the election advertising rules, both for the 48 third parties who were required to register with Elections Canada and for candidates and registered political parties. Decisions in a court case during the campaign period affected third party election advertising for 19 days. Our Web site posted the allocation of political broadcasting time by the Broadcasting Arbitrator, and related guidelines.
Following the close of nominations, 1 808 candidates were confirmed; about 20 percent were women, who totalled 24.4 percent of candidates in 1997. Of the 12 registered or eligible political parties, 11 endorsed a confirmed candidate in at least 50 ridings. The average election expenses limit for a candidate was $68 019.37. Candidates' election expenses returns are due by March 27, 2001, and those of registered political parties by May 28, 2001.
The advance polls opened on Friday, November 17, and continued on Saturday and Monday, November 18 and 20, providing an alternative for electors who preferred not to vote on election day. The revised voters lists included 20 155 152 electors; the 775 157 people who cast a valid ballot at the advance polls numbered about nine percent more than in the 1997 general election.
On election day, registration was made easier for homeless electors. A total of 20 370 921 electors were on the official voters lists. Out of the 56 822 ordinary polling stations, some 120 stations in 14 ridings (of which 71 were in the riding of St. Paul's, Ontario) did not open on time – an unacceptable situation.
After election day, there was still much more to do. Returning officers validated the voting results, recording 12 857 773 valid votes among the 12 997 185 total votes cast. Following the validation of the results and five judicial recounts, the returning officers declared 45 new members and 256 previous members elected to the House of Commons, three of whom were not sitting members at the dissolution of the 36th Parliament. The total of registered electors on the final lists was 21 243 473. Each riding's REVISE database of electors will be used to update the National Register of Electors.
To date, the Commissioner of Canada Elections has received 382 complaints related to the election, of which 251 cases have been resolved and 131 are still being investigated. The first election expenses reimbursements to candidates have been issued, and most of the rest will be completed by the end of July. We will finish our audits and reimbursements of political parties' election expenses by mid-June, and the audits of third party reports by the end of April.
Part III discusses what we are doing to measure our performance during the election, and outlines some initial thoughts for improving that performance at the next electoral event. The Chief Electoral Officer's recommendations, including legislative changes, will appear as a separate document in late fall 2001.
Part IV presents tables of preliminary election statistics, and the Broadcasting Arbitrator's report appears in the Appendix.