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Report on the October 24, 2016, By-election in Medicine Hat–Cardston–Warner

4 Findings – Major and Other Observations

Our audit findings and conclusions are presented on an aggregate level. Our results are not attributed to any specific polling site, polling station or election official. Our key findings and other observations are described below. Our recommendations are included in Appendix A to this report.

4.1 Performance of the duties and functions of election officials

A Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years of age on election day may vote in the ED in which they reside. The CEA provides procedural safeguards designed to protect the integrity of the electoral process, one of which requires electors to prove eligibility (identity and residence) before receiving a ballot. For most electors who are already registered at their current address and therefore included on the List of Electors, election day procedures involve a simple, efficient check of one or more pieces of acceptable identification to confirm identity and address of residence. Based on the sample tested, approximately 85% of electors voted in this manner in this by-election. The remaining 15% of electors required special administrative procedures prior to being issued a ballot and exercising their right to vote.

The following table outlines circumstances that require special procedures as well as the approximate percentage of electors (making up the 15% referred to above).

Special Circumstances Percentage of electors (Approximate)
An elector is not on the List of Electors for their polling division (Registration Certificate). 8.0 %
An elector requires a minor correction to their electoral information on the List of Electors (Correction Certificate). 4.0 %
An elector is previously crossed off as voted on the List of Electors (Correction Certificate). N/A*
An elector does not have identification with their address; requires an attestor to provide proof of the elector's residence (Oath of Residence Certificate). 3.0 %
An elector's qualification or residence is challenged (verbal oath of qualification or residence). N/A*
An elector is voting by transfer certificate (Transfer Certificate). N/A*
Total 15.0 %

*Circumstance was not observed during testing.

4.2 Major findings

4.2.1 No major findings resulting from deviations in key controls and procedures for regular electors

Our testing did not identify any major findings from deviations in key controls and procedures for regular electors (i.e. approximately 85% of electors). In addition, we only noted one major finding from a deviation related to a key control for special procedures (i.e. where those electors requiring special procedures make up approximately 15% of electors). Details of this finding are outlined in the section below.

4.2.2 Mandatory procedures not consistently administered for electors who require special procedures

Depending on the circumstances, special procedures may include validating that the elector is at the correct polling site and polling station, administering a verbal oath to the elector, administering an oral warning to the elector and their attestor, and/or administering written oaths/declarations to the elector and/or their attestor. These procedures are intended to reinforce the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring that ballots are only issued once to eligible electors.

In several of the special procedures that are administered, specifically the registration certificate, the correction certificate and the oath of residence certificate, a written or verbal oath/declaration is required to be read and signed or acknowledged by the elector (and the attestor where applicable). The following outlines the nature of the oath/declaration required under each of the special circumstances that were observed during the audit for this by-election.

Our findings during this by-election are consistent with our findings reported in our report on the 2015 general election whereby errors were noted with the administration of special procedures. Elector interactions were observed where the oaths/declarations that would have been required under the circumstances were not administered. In most of these cases, this is based on election officials not administering the correct form in the first place. This is an important distinction as there were situations when the election official did not administer special procedures at all compared to other situations where special procedures were administered but they were wrong based on the circumstances. For example, in some cases a correction certificate would have been required but special procedures were not administered at all. In other cases, a certificate was initiated but it was the wrong one. The latter example indicates that an election official is aware that special procedures are required but lacks clarity on which form to administer under the circumstances.

During the observation of the administration of these oaths/declarations by the DRO, our audit noted circumstances above our reporting threshold where the DRO did not obtain the signature of the elector on the applicable certificate. As a result, the certificate did not include evidence that the elector had read and signed the applicable oath/declaration.

The reporting thresholds are consistent with our report on the 2015 general election. It is important to note that the sample testing for the by-election (with only one ED) is proportionately lower when compared to the sample observed at the 2015 general election. Accordingly, the relatively smaller sample population has a significant impact on the calculation of the error rate, even more so when determining the deviation percentage relative to the administration of special procedures (15% of the sample for this by-election). The smaller sample population effectively results in a lower tolerance threshold and decreases the number of errors required to reach the reporting threshold.

4.3 Other observations

For key controls, a deviation of 2%–4.9% was considered an Other Observation. For secondary controls, a deviation of 11% or more was considered an Other Observation.

4.3.1 No other observations related to key controls

The results of our testing indicate that there was no deviation in the range of 2% to 4.9% for key controls.

4.3.2 Verbal oaths were not administered consistently and certificates were not always documented completely

As noted above, the administration of special procedures requires the initiation of a certificate based on the nature of the situation. The sections of the individual certificates require information pertinent to the situation and typically require the name and address of the elector and any other relevant information, the information related to the oath/declaration to be administered, a signature of the elector and attestor, as applicable, and the signature and date by the DRO.

Detailed testing results identified situations when certificates were not signed by the DRO and verbal oaths were not administered to the elector.

4.4 Assessment of administrative controls established by EC

The delivery of the by-election is highly dependent on the RO, in collaboration with the Recruitment Officer, to hire and train a temporary workforce of approximately 600 within a short time frame. The requirements of the Act result in complexities relative to the procedures they are expected to undertake (i.e. number of different acceptable forms of identification, number and nature of special procedures) throughout the day. To meet these requirements, Election Officials are expected to learn extensive technical information which includes detailed procedures that must be performed in a particular order and vary depending on the circumstances of the elector. Recognizing the need for Election Officials to learn and assimilate a complex set of procedures, EC has taken measures to strengthen the design and delivery of the training program.

As outlined in our approach section, the assessment of the administrative controls was based on results of our review of the training program materials and guidebooks, observation of the delivery of selected training sessions and interviews, and enquiries with EC staff and election officials, including DROs, PCs, REGOs, training officers and recruitment officers. We focussed our assessment on changes to the overall design and delivery of the training program since the 2015 General Election. Based on our discussions with EC and review of material, certain changes were made to the training presentations and to the guidebooks to improve clarity.

Based on the results of our interviews with REGOs, DROs and PCs, overall, feedback was positive on the content of the training programs and the format of how the training was delivered. Further, election officials found the availability of the guidebooks and other aids very useful in assuming their responsibilities and troubleshooting when they were unsure of how to proceed. Feedback was positive on the role of the central poll supervisor in consistently providing ongoing support. Opportunities were identified, however, to focus more time on the administration of the special procedures and the associated documentation as election officials did not feel fully equipped to deal with these scenarios after completing their in-class training program.

The following represent our findings related to the design of the training program and associated tools.

4.4.1 Opportunities were noted to enhance the training program to better equip election officials to perform their duties

In order to equip the temporary workforce hired to successfully serve electors, a formal training program is in place and delivered to each election official in advance of taking on their responsibilities. This is no small task; once the writ is dropped, the RO has the task of finding people who are qualified and available for the election period to fill key support functions – including the recruitment officer and training officers in supporting them in seeking out/screening potential candidates, training, assessing and swearing them in, and supporting them in the completion of their assigned functions during the advance and ordinary polls.

For this by-election, approximately 600 resources were recruited and trained to work at advance and ordinary polls, which includes a redundancy factor to allow flexibility for those who drop out in advance or do not show on the day of voting.

4.4.1.1 Format of the training program

As we noted in our report on the 2015 general election, the content and format for the training program was redesigned, focusing on learning techniques appropriate for adult learners, which included the support of videos to demonstrate scenarios that could be faced at the polling site and to supplement the information being delivered by the training officer. In addition, the training program materials were designed to ensure consistency in training delivery: a standard slide deck to be used by training officers with mandatory speaking notes in the delivery of the training, a training guide for training officers and pre-established exercises for participants to complete. Since the 42nd General Election, EC made some modifications to the training presentations as well as to format for delivering the training material to participants.

The training program for this by-election, consistent with the 42nd General Election, was designed so that there was a tailored training curriculum depending on the intended role at the polls and whether the duties would be performed at advance or ordinary polls. Content-specific in-class training courses were delivered by the training officers for the DRO/PC, REGO/Information Officer and the Central Poll Supervisor. For the by-election, the delivery of training was tailored to include CPSs at DRO/PC training sessions to serve as facilitators and help participants during the practice sessions of the curriculum. According to the training course notes prepared by EC in support of training officer materials, the intent of having CPSs attend the sessions was to give CPSs an opportunity to practice supervision (the role of a CPS at the polls), help participants during the practice component of the training sessions and to observe how well each learner completes certain tasks. The latter would help assess the participants' comprehension of their duties and functions and help to ensure that polls are staffed by qualified resources. It is our understanding that CPSs may not have been present at all DRO/PC training sessions.

For this by-election, training officers provided over 40 training sessions leading up to the advance and ordinary poll days. Based on the curriculum for the DRO/PC training sessions, the agenda covered 11 key topics and included approximately 1 hour of practice which covers a variety of tasks such as assessing identification, serving electors, reconciling the ballots, closing the polls, and counting the ballots. The curriculum is designed to provide a combination of methods of instruction such as lectures, discussion, walkthroughs and practice over a 3-hour period with limited time for one break. As per the design of the training program, training officers used a combination of visual aids (videos and posters), slide decks, the guidebooks and the actual templates/tools used at the polls to instruct participants.

Results of interviews with one training officer confirmed the challenge with delivering a significant amount of technical information in a limited timeframe. This is consistent with our observations during the audit of the 2015 general election. While the training curriculum was based on a duration of 3 hours (for DRO/PC session), we noted that the training calendars allotted 4 hours to the training for DRO/PCs. In some cases, training extended beyond 4 hours.

Based on the results of our interview with 2o Election Officials (combination of REGOs, DROs and PCs), overall, participants wished for more practice on the administration of special procedures.

4.4.1.2 Training curriculum

The training curriculum for each of the intended audiences covered the following topics.

Certain topics are general and provide the necessary background material assuming limited exposure to the electoral process. The topics covered in these areas relied on videos to deliver key messages. The information provided allowed all participants to have a baseline understanding of the electoral process and expectations for polling days. Other topics were more specifically geared to the intended audience and provide technical information on the duties and tasks to be performed at the polls.

DRO/PC training

For the by-election, the organization of the training course was different from the 2015 general election. There was some limited background and the program went directly into the roles which had an overview of a lot of different concepts including: responsibility for ballots, eligibility of voters, certificates, tools (i.e. List of Electors).

After the background, there was a more detailed presentation on how to get ready for election day and a more detailed review of the List of Electors and Bingo Sheet and then exercises were presented. In the exercises, eligible identification was discussed; however, there had not been a detailed presentation of acceptable identification concepts to this point. In the second example, an exception was presented including a registration certificate. It appears that some critical concepts such as acceptable identification and exception processing was introduced as part of the examples and not as concepts on their own, with examples to reinforce the concepts presented.

After the break, some of the background/overall concepts were presented, including being neutral, protecting the voters information, official languages, accessibility, and good service.

After these background/overarching topics were presented, a more detailed presentation on acceptable forms of identification was presented (although the examples had come before the break). It does appear that more examples of acceptable/non-acceptable identification were presented in this section as compared to the 2015 general election. Subsequent to this, more exercises were completed but covering different topics such as the poll book, Bingo Sheet and oaths/forms.

Significant additional slides were added to the slide deck to cover counting the ballots and closing the polling station as compared to the 2015 general election training program.

No additional exercises were available to be completed at the end of the course to allow additional practice serving electors and completing forms with the support of the training officer.

Overall, the organization of the by-election training program appears less organized as compared to the 2015 general election. For the 2015 general election, the background topics were covered up front together and then the more specific duties, responsibilities were presented with examples and practice exercises to complete. The topics generally appeared to build on each other in logical manner – following the process to serve an elector. For the by-election, the background topics were presented throughout the training program which made the program appear less fluid.

REGO training

The training curriculum for the REGO was similar as the training program for the DRO/PC with the exception of certain topics that were not applicable to the REGO and therefore were excluded (e.g. oaths, counting ballots and returning election material). For the most part, the time allocated to practice was consistent with the DRO/PC training program. Overall, training for the REGO was based on approximately 2-1/2 hours.

4.4.1.3 Tools and guidance

As part of the delivery of the training program, participants were provided with guidebooks to use as a reference when serving electors. In addition, the role of central poll supervisor exists to provide support and guidance to election officials when serving electors. As part of their duties, the central poll supervisor has been encouraged to conduct regular touch points with election officials responsible for greeting, registering and serving electors to address and resolve any questions or concerns in relation to the discharge of their responsibilities. In addition, expectations were set with the central poll supervisor to periodically conduct quality checks related to the documentation being completed by the election officials to identify and resolve any issues in a timely manner.

As noted above, given the amount of background content that had to be included in the in-class training, although the voting scenarios, the certificates, the poll book and the associated oaths were covered in training, insufficient time was able to be spent in-class to sufficiently cover these topics. Accordingly, the guidebooks were a useful resource for election officials in preparation for and on advance and ordinary poll days. Feedback from DROs, PCs and REGOs confirmed the usefulness of the guidebooks as a quick reference (if time permitted) if they were unsure of how to proceed. These support tools and functions mitigated, to some extent, the risk of inappropriate administration of the different voting scenarios.