Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 39th General Election of January 23, 2006
3.3 How We Assisted Electors
Two things must happen before electors can mark a ballot in a Canadian federal election. They must know when, where and how to vote, and they must be registered to do so. In this section, we look at how Elections Canada informed electors about exercising their right to vote and ensured that they were duly represented on the voters lists.
3.3.1 Informing Electors
Elections Canada communicates with Canadians about the electoral process both directly and through the media. For the 39th general election, our communications objectives were:
- to provide a high level of service to electors seeking information on when, where and how to vote or how to get on the voters list
- to reach all electors, especially those Canadians most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic right to vote
- to improve on the results of the previous general election in processing inquiries from the public
We pursued these objectives using the voter information card and reminder card, and five additional communications tools:
- Voter Information Service – Responded to queries from the public on the Web and by phone, 24 hours a day, throughout the election period.
- Web site – Featured a wealth of information for the public, journalists, candidates, political parties, third parties and other political entities.
- Advertising campaign – Delivered key messages to the public, and in particular youth, Aboriginal electors and Canada's ethnocultural communities, through print, television, radio and the Web.
- Outreach program – Assisted targeted groups through joint initiatives and partnerships with community organizations.
- Media relations unit – Handled thousands of questions from print and broadcast journalists.
In this section, we describe how Elections Canada reached Canadian electors through each of these tools.
The Voter Information Service
During the 39th general election, Elections Canada received 680,335 telephone inquiries, compared with 734,954 in June 2004. This 7.4 percent reduction in callers reflects the increase in use of the self-service features on the Elections Canada Web site, where traffic increased by over 116 percent in the same interval.
To handle the large volume of calls, Elections Canada once again partnered with Bell Canada to provide the Voter Information Service (VIS). As in the 2004 election, the VIS offered three self-service features:
- a self-service facility on our Web site
- an automated Web-based and speech-enabled Voice Response System (VRS)
- a partly outsourced call centre, with staff using Web-based tools, for callers who needed to speak with an agent
Electors made extensive use of these automated services throughout the election period. This alleviated communication problems in the early days, when returning offices were still being established and phone installation delays were being encountered in some areas.
Figure 3.2 Voice Response System Call Statistics in Last 10 Days 39th General Election, 2006
Extracted from Event Management System
Web-based Voter Information Service
Able to provide electors with answers to their questions 24 hours a day, in a flexible and easy-to-use format, the VIS on the Elections Canada Web site received 1,465,751 visits during the 55 days of the election, compared with 676,130 in 2004. Furthermore, users of the Web-based VIS went on to surf the Elections Canada Web site for an average of eight minutes per visit.
The Voice Response System
Electors preferring to obtain information by phone could do so using Elections Canada's national toll-free number 1 800 INFO-VOTE (1 800 463-6868). Upon dialing in, all callers were initially greeted by the automated VRS.
The VRS operated 24 hours a day throughout the election period, answering all 680,335 phone calls received by the VIS. The VRS self-serve option, which enables users to obtain information without an agent, processed more than 343,550 questions, including those from electors who were automatically routed to their local returning office so they could find out whether they were registered to vote. Calls to the system spiked on the 14th day before election day, January 9, when 73,209 calls came in. This date coincided with the appearance of our main advertisement in newspapers across Canada. On election day, the VRS received 55,548 calls, compared with 57,854 in 2004.
Figure 3.3 Calls Transferred from Voice Response System to Call Agents 39th General Election, 2006
Extracted from Event Management System
At any time while connected to the VRS, callers had the option of asking to speak with a call centre agent ? a choice made, in fact, by some 50 percent of all callers. This rate was higher than expected. Improvements are planned to reduce the number of agent-directed calls for the next election.
To handle the call volume, Elections Canada renewed agreements with partner call centres at Elections Ontario in Toronto and the federal government's Canada Inquiries Centre in Ottawa. Agents were available to take calls from 7:00 a.m. through 1:00 a.m. Eastern Time throughout the 55-day election period. The extended hours ensured service to electors across the country. Staffing levels were adjusted daily, based on call demand ? on election day, 294 agents were available to answer calls from the public. In the next election, further adjustments will be made to accommodate more calls on other peak-volume days. For example, on the 14th day before election day (January 9, 2006), agents were able to handle only 67 percent of the calls directed to them.
The VRS was also able to transfer a call, toll-free, to the elector's returning office ? a service it performed in 140,612 cases.
Alternatively, an elector could choose to call the local returning office directly. Elections Canada activated toll-free 1-800 lines for public access to all returning offices and additional offices. Callers could choose to speak to the staff conducting the revision of the lists of electors or to the receptionist to be transferred to another member of the returning office staff. Field staff performed extremely well, responding to 1,109,591 calls, with a response rate of 95 percent, during business hours, seven days a week. After-hours messages invited callers to call the office the next day or to call Elections Canada directly. In 2004, returning offices and satellite offices handled 1,159,352 calls.
In addition, for callers who could not speak English or French, we were able to provide service in over 100 additional languages ? including Aboriginal languages ? by means of a three-way conversation involving an outsourced translation service and the RO or call centre agent.
Toll-free Network Level of Service
Elections Canada activated over 1,200 toll-free 1-800 lines for public access to returning offices, call centre agents and other election services during the election period. To monitor the level of service to field offices maintained by the toll-free network, system status was checked continually using real-time data analysis. If less than 85 percent of calls were being answered, the system would send an e-mail "alert" to a monitoring room and to field staff for remedial action.
Between November 29, 2005, and January 23, 2006, the system detected and forwarded a total of 8,830 such alerts. Less than 1 percent of these were considered major ? i.e. when 10 or more lines were simultaneously busy or new callers received no answer over a 30-minute interval.
Figure 3.4 Calls to Returning Officers
Extracted from Event Management System
The Elections Canada Web Site
The Elections Canada Web site was a popular source of information for Canadians during the election. It doubled its daily number of visitors on election day, compared with the previous election. Where the 2004 election brought some 1.8 million visitors throughout its 36 days, the January 2006 election totalled approximately 3.3 million visits during its 55 days.
The Web site offered several new features to assist specific groups of electors:
- On the Home page, visitors were greeted with a distinctive "Snowbirds" icon, which also appeared in print ads for many popular travel destinations. The icon linked hundreds of thousands of Canadian electors who travel south each winter to a document that explained how to vote by special ballot before leaving the country or from their winter destination by mail.
- For electors with visual impairments, there was better access to both the initial splash page (where language is selected) and the Home page, where an alternative screen made it easier for them to find and use links. These improvements emerged from feedback received by our Web team, at the beginning of the election, when they met with members of various associations for people with disabilities.
- Testing by members of some of these groups also helped confirm that the Web component of our VIS, which electors could use to look up ridings, lists of candidates, ROs and polling locations, could be used by people with impaired vision. Elections Canada has identified improving the accessibility of our Web site as a priority for the next election.
Election Results at www.elections.ca
As the polls close in each electoral district on election night, poll officials count the ballots cast at their polling stations. Once the count is completed, the results are phoned in to the office of the returning officer. Simultaneously, special ballots cast locally are counted in the office of the returning officer, while advance poll officials count ballots cast a week before in their advance polling stations.
As results become available, returning office staff enter them into their computers. These results are automatically transmitted to the Media Consortium and to the Elections Canada Web site, where a computer application called Election Night Results takes over. At the close of all polls in Canada, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, the public can begin to see preliminary election results on the Elections Canada Web site, updated continually in real time. Anyone with an Internet connection can view results nationally or by electoral district, major centre, province or territory, or party leader. Each results screen also provides users, in their official language of choice, with a profile for the electoral district, as well as the related voter turnout (excluding voters who registered on election day) and popular vote.
Over 120,000 visitors looked at the preliminary results on election night, with no interruption of service. The following day, another 189,556 visitors used the application.
Furthermore, recent improvements made to the Election Night Results application extended its usage to many post-election-night tasks, such as:
- publishing validated results and judicial recounts
- producing general and detailed views of judicial recounts
- allowing users to toggle back and forth between preliminary results and validated results
- downloading election results into a single database file
As in the 38th general election, a map showing the unofficial election night results was posted on the Elections Canada Web site the day after polling day. Results validated by ROs started arriving that same day and were posted on the site as they came in. On May 12, 2006, the map showing the official results of the 39th general election will be posted at www.elections.ca. Printed copies will be distributed to members of Parliament, senators and others.
Figure 3.5 Visits to the Elections Canada Web Site
Extracted from Event Management System
Elections Canada's multimedia national advertising campaign was designed to catch the attention of as many Canadians as possible, to inform electors about voting and to motivate them to exercise their right to vote. To reach the public, we repeated our well-received 2004 advertising campaign, which centred on the theme "Why not speak up when everyone is listening?"
The campaign consisted of four distinct phases, each timed to coincide with a specific stage of the election calendar.
- Phase 1: Election is called – As soon as the election was called, we informed electors of the date of the election. Because of the timing of this election, a special message for snowbirds was added to this phase of our print advertisements.
- Phase 2: Voter information cards (VICs) – Every elector on the preliminary lists was sent a VIC, with the dates and places for advance and election day voting and other important information, like how to reach the returning officer and Elections Canada. This mailing was supported by advertisements, which advised electors to keep their card.
- Phase 3: Advance voting – Before the advance polls opened on January 13, 2006, we let voters know how they could vote in advance: by mail using the special ballot or in person at a returning office, or at advance poll locations in their home ridings over three days.
- Phase 4: Election day – Toward the end of the election period, advertisements highlighted the fact that people who had not already done so could still register on election day; this was meant to encourage them to get out and vote.
Key messages were conveyed to the public through television, radio, print and cinema advertisements, as well as Web banners. Our print ads alone appeared in 109 dailies, 752 weeklies, 94 minority-language papers, 22 ethnocultural papers and 78 student papers.
In addition to our general advertising campaign, Elections Canada devised special initiatives to reach certain target groups whose members were, for various reasons, less likely than the general electorate to obtain the information or have the incentive to vote.
Canada's first winter election in 25 years coincided with Canadians' seasonal migration to warmer climates. Elections Canada compensated with newspaper advertisements, e-mail messages and Web site announcements directed at Canadians temporarily living down south. The cost of advertising to this target group was $260,708. To help electors take advantage of the Special Voting Rules (SVR), Elections Canada issued news releases on the first and second days of the election, describing the special ballot. Ten days before election day, we sent another reminder to the media about the impending deadline for registering to vote by special ballot.
The Canadian Snowbird Association assisted us in getting out the word, sending approximately 80,000 applications to register and vote by mail to its members vacationing outside Canada and distributing the form to Canadian communities and clubs in the United States. Elections Canada invested $91,000 in advertising in the association's magazine and in fees paid for use of its network to send out materials. Posters and flyers promoting voting by mail were sent to regional offices of the Canadian Automobile Association, some of which included a message in e-letters sent out to its members. Our initiatives were also supported by Canada's consulates in southern U.S. states and the embassy and consulates in Mexico, whose representatives went out into their communities, distributing posters and application forms, as well as assisting Canadians with the registration process.
All told, there were 67,775 visits to the information for snowbirds on our Web site, and 36,623 application forms were downloaded. Additionally, our inquiries officers informed hundreds of callers a day about how to register and vote by mail-in ballot. About 30,472 applications were ultimately received by Elections Canada from snowbirds in the U.S. and Mexico (over 20,000 from Florida alone). This represents almost 37 percent of the 83,133 special ballot applications received from electors away from their own ridings during the election period and some 6 percent of all electors who requested ballots under the SVR. (See section 3.6.1, Special Ballots and the Special Voting Rules for further information on the SVR.)
Figure 3.6 Applications Received from Canadian Snowbirds – Concentrations in the U.S. and Mexico
Through co-operative arrangements with 23 airport authorities, "I'm Mailing My Vote!" posters and flyers were displayed in high-traffic areas in airports across the country. The aim was to inform Canadians travelling to, from or within Canada about the option of voting by mail.
The Chief Electoral Officer met or communicated with presidents of the major national student associations ? including the Canadian Federation of Students, la Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, la Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations ? to discuss how to facilitate voting by students who were on campus on election day. We distributed youth voter information to the members of these student federations. We also distributed Elections Canada e-mail bulletins, news releases and other information about registration and voting for youth and students to student federations and a list of major youth organizations throughout the country.
The principal theme for the targeted Aboriginal advertising campaign was "I can choose to make a difference. I can vote."
Messages developed with the assistance of an Aboriginal advertising firm were placed in 42 Aboriginal community newspapers and on 50 radio stations, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, and the CBC North and CBC Pacific TV services. All ads were produced in English, French and Inuktitut, with transcripts available through the Elections Canada Web site in 10 additional Aboriginal languages, including Gwich'in, Nisga'a, Plains Cree, Ojibway, Oji-Cree, Mohawk, James Bay Cree, Michif, Innu and Mi'kmaq.
"My future, my vote" served as the central theme for Elections Canada's campaign to reach ethnocultural groups. Messages were placed in 25 languages in ethnocultural newspapers and in 23 languages on ethnocultural radio stations. Mainstream English and French television ads were voiced-over in 12 additional languages.
As well, a voter information guide was produced in 26 languages; the number of copies requested during the election is shown in Table 3.4.
|Language||No. of Copies|
Electors with Special Needs
Elections Canada has developed a wide range of services and information in alternative formats, explaining the many ways of voting and the assistance available to persons with special needs in exercising their right to vote.
In addition to placing ads in publications for people with special needs, distributing information kits to 35 national associations and sending order forms to approximately 2,000 local associations, we worked with several organizations to produce and deliver revised and customized information in accessible formats on such subjects as level access to polling stations, visual aids, voting aids and the option of having a designated person give assistance if requested.
Products made available for the election included key electoral information in Braille and plain language, and on video, audio-cassette and diskette; a sign-language information video, developed in co-operation with the Canadian Association of the Deaf and the Centre québécois de la déficience auditive, for distribution to members of these two organizations and to the public on request; news releases, a voter information guide and other forms of information broadcast on VoicePrint; and an animated Web presentation, developed jointly with the Movement for Canadian Literacy, intended for literacy educators to use in the classroom.
|Publication||Format||No. of Copies|
|Accessibility of the Electoral System||
|Other Ways to Vote||
|Voting in a Federal Election||plain language||4,325|
Remote Camp Workers
In January 2006, special communication and outreach initiatives were conducted in 31 remote camps in the Fort McMurray area in Alberta. These initiatives informed up to 10,000 transient workers, some 95 percent of whom were from outside the electoral district, about their voting options. The Chief Electoral Officer wrote to the camp managers to ask for their support and enclosed a notice to inform electors that they had a number of options for voting: at home on their days off; on advance voting days; on election day; in the Fort McMurray?Athabasca election office by special ballot; or by mail, using the special ballot, forms for which could be obtained in the camps themselves or from the Elections Canada Web site. Ottawa staff visited the area to meet with the returning officer (RO) and assistant returning officer, as well as the Northern Alberta field liaison officer and regional media representative, to ensure that established procedures were followed.
Reaching Electors in the Community
Certain groups in Canadian society, including Aboriginal peoples, youth, ethnocultural communities and homeless electors, have historically participated in federal elections at lower rates than other electors. In the 39th general election, Elections Canada did more than ever before to disseminate information and facilitate access to the democratic process by members of these groups. Certain Elections Canada initiatives, such as the Community Relations Officer Program, and strategic partnerships with organizations throughout Canada and abroad, strengthened our ability to inform and motivate electors in these groups.
The Community Relations Officer Program
During the election, ROs could appoint community relations officers, where warranted, to help identify and address the needs of individual communities and encourage participation in the electoral process. A total of 345 community relations officers were appointed, compared with 329 in 2004, to serve ridings with significant Aboriginal, youth, ethnocultural or homeless populations.
The largest community relations officer contingent in this election served in Aboriginal communities, where they helped with targeted revision, arranged for polling stations, ensured that Aboriginal poll officials were recruited and trained for these locations and kept ROs informed about local concerns.
Youth community relations officers, meanwhile, identified neighbourhoods with high student concentrations to target for registration drives, helped ROs locate polls in places where youth would have easier access and provided information about registration and voting to the youth community.
In ridings where community relations officer assistance was not required, ROs and their staff were responsible for conducting all outreach. This involved hiring staff who were representative of the population being served, selecting accessible polling sites and disseminating information about the electoral process. In addition to hiring poll officials from the community (who spoke the languages represented in the community), ROs ensured that interpreters were on hand at polling stations if needed; 12 were hired for advance polls and another 47 on election day.
|Type of Community Relations Officer||Number of Electoral Districts That Hired Community Relations Officers||Number of Community Relations Officers Hired|
The Aboriginal Elder and Youth Program
Another Elections Canada initiative encouraged elders and youth to facilitate at polling stations that serve mainly Aboriginal electors. The 2006 election saw more Aboriginal communities participating in the Aboriginal Elder and Youth Program than ever before, with 240 elders and 225 youth present in 64 electoral districts. This compares with 173 elders and 182 youth in 48 electoral districts in 2004.
Figure 3.7 Aboriginal Elder and Youth Program
Strategic Aboriginal Communications and Partnerships
Elections Canada formed communications partnerships with a number of groups representing Aboriginal interests leading up to and during the 39th general election.
- Assembly of First Nations (AFN) – Following the adoption of a historic resolution in December to make participation in federal elections a priority, the AFN approached Elections Canada. The AFN proposed a partnership to develop a voter education and information program for First Nations electors (see section 1.4.3, Outreach Initiatives). To that end, the AFN and Elections Canada engaged in two targeted communications initiatives during the elections. First, AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine and the Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, produced a joint public service announcement on the electoral process, which aired on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) and appeared on the APTN Web site during the election. They also distributed a joint message that was sent through the AFN's distribution list to approximately 800 contacts, including chiefs, regional AFN offices and major Aboriginal organizations in early January. The message, which was accompanied by a voter information kit, focused on the partnership between the two organizations and the importance of voting to First Nations electors.
The collaboration between the AFN and Elections Canada contributed not only to the above communications and outreach initiatives, but also to developing knowledge of and trust in the federal electoral process by First Nations electors who participated in the joint activities.
- National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) – Although Elections Canada, both in Ottawa and in the field, has had contact with a great number of friendship centres in the past, a landmark partnership was established with the NAFC after the call of the 39th general election. The NAFC represents all 117 friendship centres in Canada. The partnership produced a joint message about the election from the Chief Electoral Officer and NAFC President Vera Pawis-Tabobondung that was distributed to all NAFC members.
Elections Canada also produced a questionnaire with the NAFC that served two purposes: to verify that Elections Canada's voter information kits had reached the friendship centres to which they had been sent and to find out whether friendship centres had been, or wanted to be, contacted by an RO or a community relations officer in their area. Of the 117 questionnaires distributed to friendship centres across Canada in early December 2005, 43 were returned to Elections Canada for analysis. (A similar response rate was obtained after the 2004 election, when a more detailed questionnaire was sent.) Of the 43 respondents, 36 had received the information kits in mid-December and planned to display the information if they had not already done so. Comments on the enclosed posters, voter information guides and newsletter were all positive. The questionnaire also asked whether an RO or community relations officer had been in touch already, enabling field staff to follow up efficiently.
Strategic Communications and Partnerships with Youth
In addition to a youth-oriented, targeted advertising campaign, young voter education materials, targeted revision in areas where youths and students live, and providing polling sites on or near campuses, Elections Canada engaged in strategic communications with youth and student associations using a series of "e-bulletins." During the election, we sent 13 bulletins to a distribution list of 33 youth groups and student associations.
|December 14, 2005||Election Information for Students|
|December 15, 2005||Message Sent to Student Associations and Youth Groups|
|December 19, 2005||Youth Registration for the Election|
|December 30, 2005||Accessibility of the Electoral Process|
|January 4, 2006||Targeted Registration of Students|
|January 6, 2006||Reminder Cards|
|January 7, 2006||Election Information Regarding Advance Polls|
|January 9, 2006||Are You Registered to Vote?|
|January 9, 2006||Polling Sites Near Campuses|
|January 10, 2006||Information Regarding Voting by Special Ballot|
|January 11, 2006||Reminder to British Columbia Electors|
|January 20, 2006||Reminder to Electors|
|January 23, 2006||Student Vote 2006|
We also embarked on two important partnerships ? with Student Vote, a federal election simulation for young people under 18, and the other with the Dominion Institute's Democracy Project ? to foster greater interest in and knowledge of the election.
Elections Canada renewed its support for the Student Vote program, which aims to develop a habit of participation among Canadian students who have not yet reached voting age, by giving them the opportunity to vote in a parallel election simulation for the candidates in their school's electoral district.
According to the Student Vote interim report, 2,504 schools across Canada took part in the program during the January 2006 election, casting 468,753 ballots. This was a significant increase over the 263,588 ballots cast by 1,168 schools during the June 2004 election.5
|Province or Territory||Ridings||Schools||Participants||Valid Votes||Rejected||Spoiled||Avg. Ballots|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||7||46||7,531||7,300||231||76||159|
|Prince Edward Island||4||29||6,212||6,069||143||40||209|
The Student Vote 2006 results were released following the close of official polls across Canada on election day. Participating schools were asked to keep their results confidential until the official release of the results. The Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, and the Chief Election Officer of Student Vote, Taylor Gunn, issued a news release, acknowledging that the program had had its most successful year ever.
Full results for the 2006 Student Vote election can be found on the Student Vote Web site at www.studentvote.ca/.
The Democracy Project
Elections Canada partnered with the Dominion Institute on a 12-month education and research program for youth called the Democracy Project, which seeks to gain a better understanding of the causes of low voter turnout and identify new ways of addressing it. During the election, the Democracy Project:
- organized 63 town hall meetings at high schools and universities across the country, giving over 23,000 young people, aged 12 to 25, the opportunity to speak with 240 local candidates from a range of political parties
- gave more than 200 print, TV and radio interviews
- integrated features such as text message polls, chat rooms and message boards on its Web site to engage youth in discussing electoral matters; the site received a total of 550,204 hits, and its educational resource guide was downloaded 1,216 times
- distributed another 1,000 of these guides directly to schools
- received over 1,000 questionnaires from young Canadians offering their recommendations on how to increase youth involvement in elections
The Democracy Project Web site is located at www.thedemocracyproject.ca/.
Homeless Elector Initiatives
To be eligible to vote in an electoral district, electors must be ordinarily resident in that district. If someone has no permanent residence, however, the Canada Elections Act allows the elector's quarters at registration time ? a shelter, hostel or other place that provides food, lodging or social services ? to be considered the ordinary residence of that person.
Posters with information for homeless persons who wished to vote were distributed to shelters about a week before election day. Shelter administrators then assisted in providing proof of residence for homeless electors to whom the shelter provided food, lodging or other social services as specified under the Act. Along with proof of address, homeless electors had to submit proof of identity (such as a health card) when they registered to vote.
The Media Relations Team
During the election, the media relations team helped to inform electors by providing services to national and regional media. It delivered information on matters concerning Elections Canada, responded to media queries, directed the media to our Web site or other appropriate sources, set up media interviews and produced news releases and other media documents within tight deadlines. Field liaison officers worked closely with regional media relations advisors to provide services locally.
The national media relations network included 6 persons in Ottawa and 13 regional media relations advisors across the country. Over the 55-day election period, this network fielded 4,017 calls from members of the media and issued 35 press releases and 2 media advisories. The unique nature of the winter election resulted in media calls on a variety of matters, including:
- Snowbirds – The timing of the election resulted in numerous calls from journalists about the voting process for electors about to leave the country for the winter months.
- Special Voting Rules – The possibility of severe weather on election day meant that the media wanted to inform voters of the other ways they could vote in the lead-up to election day.
- Targeted groups – Elections Canada's advertising campaign and outreach efforts stimulated a high level of media interest in how targeted groups were responding to these initiatives.
Before the election, the New Brunswick electoral districts of Acadie?Bathurst and Miramichi underwent boundary readjustment (see section 2.3, Electoral Geography). To ensure that electors living in the affected areas were aware of the changes, Elections Canada placed print ads in newspapers throughout both ridings, and sent flyers to each household in the 15 affected polling divisions, to inform electors that they would now be voting in a different riding. Electoral maps and atlases, lists of electors and campaign expenses limits for both districts were revised. The Chief Electoral Officer ensured that the Advisory Committee of Political Parties was kept informed.
3.3.2 Getting on the Voters List
Elections Canada goes to great lengths to register electors to vote, up to and including election day.
The Preliminary Lists of Electors
As an election becomes imminent, information is extracted from the National Register of Electors to produce the preliminary lists of electors. For the 39th general election, the preliminary lists included 22,699,291 electors. By comparing this count with the estimated total number of electors, we estimated that some 94 percent of Canadian electors were registered; this exceeded our target of 92 percent. Electors not listed included persons who were eligible to vote in the 38th general election but did not register, as well as some persons who became citizens or reached the age of 18 after the 2004 election but who had yet to be added to the Register. Some 31,000 electors did not appear on the lists because their addresses had not yet been assigned an electoral district and polling division. We wrote to each of these electors, asking them to contact their returning officer (RO) and provide more precise address information so they could be added.
By comparing the number of elector moves processed by the Register with the estimated number of moves occurring in the electoral population, we calculated that some 85 percent of all electors were on the preliminary lists at their current address. This exceeded our target of 77 percent.
|Province or Territory||Coverage (Target 92%)||Currency (Target 77%)|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||95%||87%|
|Prince Edward Island||93%||85%|
Maintaining the currency of the Register in the North is challenging, due to the unique characteristics of the area ? a fact that ROs must take into account when revising the preliminary lists of electors in these regions.
Revisions from the Register
If new information is available, the Register continues to update elector records even after the writs are issued. Some 750,000 revisions to the preliminary lists were sent electronically to ROs in the first two weeks of the election, including 620,000 registrations and 130,000 corrections and removals. Once the revisions had been approved by the ROs, voter information cards were sent to the affected electors to inform them of the correct polling location.
Voter Information Cards
The Canada Elections Act states that voter information cards (VICs) must be mailed by the 24th day before election day ? for the 39th general election, December 30, 2005. After analyzing various options and consulting the Canada Post Corporation, the Chief Electoral Officer decided that the optimal time to mail out the VICs would be between Christmas and New Year's, as this would allow ROs to incorporate as many revisions as possible in advance, including revisions downloaded from the Register. It would also ensure that the VICs would not get caught up in the pre-holiday mail rush, Canada Post's busiest time of year. Finally, it would mean that the majority of electors would be at home and able to respond quickly if changes to their information were required. The Chief Electoral Officer directed all ROs to deliver their VICs (approximately 22.8 million in total) to Canada Post by noon on December 23, 2005, so they would be ready for immediate delivery on December 28. According to statistics provided through the Event Management System, independently verified by Canada Post, all 308 ROs successfully achieved this milestone.
VICs were mailed on December 28 and 29 to every elector registered on the voters lists in each electoral district. The cards confirmed electors' names, addresses and the fact that they were registered to vote. They also explained where and when to vote at the advance and regular polls, indicated whether the polling station had level access and gave the address and toll-free telephone number of the local returning office. Electors were asked to call or visit their returning office if corrections were needed to the name or address on the card or if they required assistance to vote.
In cases where electors had recently moved and Elections Canada's data suppliers had not yet sent the change of address, some electors received cards for previous residents at the same address. It is important to note that the information on the VIC relating to where and when to vote, and how to contact the RO, was valid for any elector resident at the address. Nearly 7 percent of respondents to our survey of electors indicated that they had moved their primary residence during the five months prior to the election. Some 35 percent of those who had recently moved reported not receiving a VIC addressed to them personally, compared with 9 percent of those who had not moved; 12 percent of the respondents who had moved received a card addressed to someone not living in their household, versus 9 percent of those who had not moved. Addresses on VICs were reported to be accurate by 90 percent of those who had recently moved, compared with 98 percent of those who had not moved. Electors who later registered at their new address during the revision period were automatically updated on the voters list and issued a new VIC.
Although it is a useful tool for electors, the VIC cannot serve as proof of identity to have one's name added to the list of electors or to vote ? a point emphasized on the 2006 VIC by the statement "This is not an identification document." This warning was also conveyed during training to each deputy returning officer and poll clerk.
Collaboration with Canada Post
The 39th general election was a success in no small part because of the initiative and effort of Canada Post personnel, who coped with the tight deadlines imposed by legislation throughout the election, as well as some unforeseen events, with the utmost professionalism.
During their busiest season of the year, Canada Post delivered 4,331 monotainers of election material, ballot paper and computer equipment to more than 308 locations in Canada, bringing everything back again after the election. Close to 22.8 million electors received their voter information cards on time. Registration and voting material was delivered to 204 correctional facilities throughout Canada, and all special ballots completed by incarcerated electors were picked up and returned to Elections Canada in time to be counted.
Canada Post's dedication, responsiveness, experience and knowledge ensured excellent service during this election. Elections Canada looks forward to continuing the successful partnership with Canada Post as we prepare for the next election.
One week after the VICs were delivered, we also sent a generic reminder card to each household in Canada. Well received when introduced in the 2004 election, this "Important Reminder to Voters" card is intended to prompt electors to act without delay if they received either no VIC or one that contained errors. The card also included a telephone number for Elections Canada that would connect callers to the local returning office. The Elections Canada survey of electors found that 41 percent of respondents remembered receiving a reminder card, and 54 percent of them reported that it was useful.
Each reminder card displayed an image of the VIC, intended to highlight the importance of being accurately registered to vote.
As part of the effort to register electors, pairs of revising agents from Elections Canada target new housing developments and areas where people tend to move frequently with door-to-door revision to the lists of electors.
During the election, revising agents visited electors to confirm their registration on the voters lists and to add or update name, address and date of birth information, as verified by a piece of identification. They also notified the RO when an elector had moved to an unknown address so that the elector's name could be struck from the voters list. If no one was found at home after two visits, a mail-in registration package was left. The Chief Electoral Officer's decision to start targeted revision early in the 55-day election calendar allowed door-to-door visits to be scheduled around weather conditions and holiday staff shortages.
According to the reports filed by ROs during the election, targeted revision covered approximately 1,407,000 addresses ? 10 percent of all addresses in the country ? and yielded registration forms for some 232,000 households. Revising agents also left 283,000 mail-in registration packages.
The historically lower voter turnout among youth, coupled with the exam and holiday season timing of the election, prompted Elections Canada to ensure that ROs and the media relations team gave special attention to youth participation. ROs were instructed to carry out targeted revision and set up polling sites on university and college campuses, where feasible. Because students can vote in the riding where they live while at school if they consider it to be their ordinary residence, revising agents in 137 electoral districts targeted local campus residences, receiving some 22,500 completed registration forms as a result of the initiative.
While Elections Canada retains responsibility for trying to reach all electors who require revision, the usefulness of door-to-door canvassing is declining and its cost-effectiveness must be critically reviewed. It is increasingly found that people tend to be at home less than they once were and are more reluctant to open their doors to strangers.
To fulfill our commitment to reach out to the entire spectrum of electors, the Chief Electoral Officer allowed some ROs, on a case-by-case basis, to put in place a number of alternative targeted revision methods if revising agents were unable to perform their duties due to severe weather conditions, influenza outbreaks in care facilities or security reasons such as denial of access to gated communities. These initiatives included setting up registration booths (or revisal offices), administered by revising agents, in nearby shopping centres, grocery stores, public libraries and lobbies of high-rise buildings or gated communities. The RO for Toronto Centre also experimented with reaching electors by telephone rather than door-to-door visits.
In previous elections, revision efforts focused on adding names to the lists of electors. However, in the two most recent elections, when most electors already appeared on the preliminary lists, the main outcome of revision has been the updating of existing elector records, including changes of address, while polling day registration has resulted mainly in adding new voters to the lists. The reason behind these patterns may be that, while recording a change to an existing elector record can be done over the phone (unless the elector has moved to a new riding), adding a name to the voters lists requires an elector to show identification and sign a declaration of eligibility. Thus, busy electors needing to be added to the lists may find it more expedient to register and vote at the same time and place. Our preliminary post-election analysis indicates that this is especially true for first-time voters. Those needing only to make information changes would typically find doing so in advance by phone more expedient than having to wait to show identification and fill out a form at a registration desk on election day.
By statute, revising agents must work in pairs; this restriction necessarily raises the cost of this effort without adding to its effectiveness.6 In addition, managers of institutions and apartment building superintendents are increasingly reluctant to validate any information about their residents due to privacy concerns; this circumstance forces revising agents to knock on each and every door in a building when searching for only those electors who do not appear on the voters lists. In light of these challenges, Elections Canada is planning to review targeted revision, with the aim of determining more effective methods of reaching out to unregistered voters in new and high-mobility residential areas.
Registration at Advance and Ordinary Polls
Elections Canada's goal is that as many electors as possible who vote on election day will already be on the lists. At the same time, election officers must be ready to serve any elector wanting to vote whose name has not yet been added to the list for the polling division in which he or she is eligible to vote.
At advance polls, ROs reported performing some 55,000 registrations, compared with the 51,000 advance poll registrations performed in the 2004 election. The numbers reveal an advance poll registration rate of 3.6 percent of voters in 2006, down from 4.1 percent in 2004. This reduction in registration is an indicator that the quality of the National Register of Electors and the preliminary lists continues to improve.
At the close of the revision period, the Chief Electoral Officer exercised his authority under the Canada Elections Act to permit the hiring of extra registration officers in ridings likely to have a high registration volume. With 12,033 registration officers and deputy returning officers (DROs) available to handle the proceedings, we were, in fact, prepared to process up to 900,000 registrations at the polls.
By close of polls on election day, the actual number processed was approximately 795,000. This means that some 6.2 percent of ordinary and mobile poll voters registered before casting a ballot ? consistent with the 6.3 percent who did so at the 2004 election. Together, the numbers from these two elections establish a significant improvement over the 8.8 percent of registrants in November 2000. Nevertheless, we observe that registration on polling day accounts for a sizeable proportion of all the electors who need to get on the lists or have their records updated during an election. The utility of this registration method now seems firmly established in our electoral process.
Interactions between revising agents and electors accounted for some 750,000 registrations, or 35 percent of all registrations recorded during the election. When we subtract the estimated 200,000 registrations from targeted revision, barely 550,000 voters were registered through their sole initiative. However, revisions sent electronically by the Chief Electoral Officer from the Register to all ROs in the early phase of revision accounted for some 620,000 registrations, or 29 percent of the total. Lastly, 37 percent of all registrations, or 795,000, were taken by registration officers or DROs on election day.
It should be noted that polling day registrations for first-time voters increased significantly in the 2006 election. The number of 18-year-olds who registered on election day increased by over 70 percent in the 39th general election compared with the previous one. Further studies will be carried out to confirm whether the turnout was higher for first-time voters in this election.
Figure 3.8 Distribution of Registrations ? Additions and Address Changes
38th and 39th General Elections, 2004 and 2006
Figure 3.9 Distribution of Registrations ? 38th General Election, 2004
Figure 3.10 Distribution of Registrations ? 39th General Election, 2006
|Province or Territory||Electors on Preliminary Lists||Electors Added1||Inter-ED Address Changes2||Moves Within ED3||Other Corrections4||Electors Removed5||SVR Group 1 Update6||Electors on Final Lists7|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||397,477||13,287||7,599||22,249||8,728||14,589||208||403,982|
|Prince Edward Island||101,177||10,169||2,297||7,097||3,730||6,023||57||107,677|
ED = electoral district
SVR = Special Voting Rules
- Electors who did not appear on any lists of electors at the beginning of the election and were added during the election.
- Electors who appeared on the lists of electors of one ED at the beginning of the election but changed their address due to a move to another ED during the election.
- Electors who appeared on the lists of electors of one ED at the beginning of the election and changed their address due to a move within the same ED during the election. These figures also include administrative changes the RO made to elector records during the election.
- Electors who appeared on a list of electors and requested a correction to an error in their name or mailing address during the election.
- Electors who appeared on a list of electors but were removed due to one of the following: the elector was deceased, the elector requested to be removed, the elector was no longer resident at that address or the elector was not qualified to be on the list (for example, less than 18 years old or a non-citizen). Figures also reflect elector records removed as a result of elector moves to another ED during the election and other duplicates removed during the election, including those removed during the preparation of the final lists of electors.
- Indicates the increase in the number of Group 1 electors registered under the SVR (Canadian electors temporarily residing outside Canada, Canadian Forces electors and incarcerated electors) during the election.
- The total number of electors on the final lists is the sum of electors on the preliminary voters list, electors added, inter-ED address updates and SVR Group 1 updates minus removed electors.
5 It should be noted that fewer students would have been in class at that time of the school year.
6 The Chief Electoral Officer suggested removing this restriction in his September 2005 recommendations report, Completing the Cycle of Electoral Reforms.