Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada – Following the Pilot Project on the Use of an Assistive Voting Device in the November 29, 2010, By-election Held in Winnipeg North
3. Informing and Engaging Electors and Organizations
For the pilot, Elections Canada organized a comprehensive, multi-faceted communications and outreach campaign, with three objectives:
- to build public awareness of the AVD
- to engage organizations representing electors with disabilities and reach potential users
- to evaluate the campaign and gather feedback on the device
This section discusses the work done to generate awareness and engagement. Section 5 deals with evaluation and feedback.
Building public awareness
The agency placed advertisements and distributed messages in newspapers. For radio, it prepared a 30-second spot. For the Internet, it ran a Web banner on abilities.ca, the Web site of the Canadian Abilities Foundation. It also used direct mail and brochures. The campaign included a public service announcement on the phone-in line for Handi-Transit, a Winnipeg public transit service for persons with disabilities. Elections Canada distributed a reminder brochure to each household in the riding, mentioning that AVDs would be available in the by-election. A postcard sent to approximately 9,200 households also alerted electors to the availability of an AVD at their polling site.
The agency produced a wide range of communications products, including a how-to video with closed captioning, a backgrounder in large print and Braille, audio files for the visually impaired, a half-page print announcement and a promotional brochure in large print. The materials produced were available in multiple formats and distributed in person at public events or by regular mail. They were also available on a special Elections Canada Web page explaining the AVD. The page is located at www.elections.ca under Elections > Past Elections > Winnipeg North, November 29, 2010 > Assistive Voting Device Pilot Project.
A regional media relations advisor stationed at the local Elections Canada office provided information to local journalists and demonstrations of how the AVD worked. The agency issued news releases on the pilot project two weeks and again one week before polling day.
Elections Canada's community relations officers distributed close to 7,500 large-print brochures in community centres, pharmacies, medical clinics, bingo halls, seniors' facilities, grocery stores, churches and other locations likely to attract people who might want to use the AVD. The officers also organized kiosks in shopping malls and community centres, where electors could see and use the device and obtain brochures about the pilot. A help in establishing ties with the community was the ability of some community relations officers to speak various heritage languages.
Engaging organizations representing electors with disabilities, as well as other stakeholders
Elections Canada worked closely with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities throughout the pilot project. The Council provided advice and reviewed communications products and messaging to ensure that the approach was inclusive and appropriate. With the Council's assistance, Elections Canada also engaged with members of some 15 organizations representing persons with disabilities. They included the following:
- People First of Canada (Manitoba chapter)
- the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities
- the Canadian Paraplegic Association
- Community Futures Manitoba
- the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
- the Canadian Council of the Blind
- the Manitoba Deaf Association
At a town hall forum for organizations representing the disabled community, Elections Canada introduced the AVD, offered electors an opportunity to try the device, and received feedback on its functionality. The agency provided communications packages about the pilot project, and invited attendees to distribute the information and promote the device in their community.
The agency engaged political parties and candidates as well. In June 2010, Elections Canada provided a demonstration of the AVD at the annual general meeting of the Advisory Committee of Political Parties, held in Ottawa. In an October 29 conference call on the by-election, the Chief Electoral Officer presented the objectives of the pilot project. In addition, at a meeting with the Winnipeg North returning officer, the agency demonstrated the device for candidates in that riding's by-election and gave them the opportunity to try it out. Candidates were also provided with communications materials for distribution.