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Report on the 42nd general election of October 19, 2015

Foreword


I am pleased to present Elections Canada's first report on the 42nd general election. It provides a factual narrative of the conduct of the event, and paints a portrait of its size and complexity. It also identifies particular issues to be discussed in more detail in a second, retrospective report to Parliament in June 2016. 

This election was historic from several perspectives: it was the first fixed-date federal election, with the longest election period in more than 140 years; we saw a 74 percent increase in advance voting; and some three million more Canadians voted than in the 2011 election, resulting in the highest voter turnout in more than 20 years. Early indications point to increased voting among groups who typically vote less than the general population, such as Aboriginal people and young Canadians. Across all communications channels, Canadians increased their engagement with Elections Canada significantly over the last election.

General elections are one of the country's largest civic exercises. In this election, under the new electoral boundaries, 338 local offices and 148 satellite offices were opened across Canada and equipped with election materials, supplies and technology. Some 285,000 temporary election workers were hired and trained to staff over 67,000 polling stations in 15,500 polling places.

In running federal elections, we strive to ensure that every Canadian who wishes to vote has an opportunity to do so, that Canadians are assured of election rules and procedures being followed, and that safeguards for fair and reliable elections are in place.

With a majority government and a fixed election date since 2011, the agency was able to focus on improving services while staying ready to conduct by-elections. For the 2015 election, we offered online voter registration, launched a comprehensive advertising and outreach campaign, renewed our approach to training election workers, and collaborated with the disability community to make polling places more accessible. We also acted on legislation passed in June 2014, which included changes to voter identification rules and introduced a registry of opinions, guidelines and interpretations on the application of the Canada Elections Act to political entities.

While the conduct of the 2015 election was generally a success, it was apparent that a system anchored in the 19th century is no longer suited to meet Canadians' expectations. Electors want more accessible and convenient election services, whether in person or online, and real-time digital information. For the next general election, we would like to provide Canadians with a streamlined voting experience – one that takes advantage of technology to improve how they are served at polling places and elsewhere.

As the agency wraps up the 42nd general election, we will finalize our assessments based on post-election research and receive the first independent audit of poll worker performance. I intend to present a retrospective that examines the experience of voters, political parties, candidates and poll workers, as well as to make recommendations for enabling legislative changes.

In closing, I would like to recognize and thank the more than 285,000 election workers, returning officers and field liaison officers who took time from their personal and professional lives to ensure that their fellow citizens could exercise their democratic right to vote. Their dedication and resourcefulness were a key ingredient in the successful conduct of the 42nd general election.

Marc Mayrand
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada