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Administrative Review of Procedures for the Tracking and Handling of Shipments Containing Special Ballots at Elections Canada's Distribution Centre in Ottawa

Executive Summary

During the 2015 general election, approximately 29,000 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) electors cast their ballots through the Special Voting Rules process. The operation of CAF voting was generally successful. Unfortunately, in one instance, a parcel of 247 marked, sealed special ballots from a CAF unit was inadvertently set aside at Elections Canada's distribution centre in Ottawa and not discovered until after counting had taken place.

The incident was recorded by Elections Canada's Military Vote Coordinator and related to the Coordinating Officer at the Department of National Defence shortly after election day. However, it was not brought to the attention of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) until October 2016. At that point, the CEO considered unsealing and counting the ballots. He ultimately decided against it, for two reasons: a) adjusting the vote totals at that point would have compromised the secrecy of the vote, and b) it would not have changed the outcome in any of the 139 electoral districts in which the ballots were cast.

To ensure that such an incident is prevented in the future, the CEO mandated an administrative review of the procedures for sending and receiving special ballots. The review found that the incident was isolated. It concluded that with better procedures and systems, the incident could have been detected in time for the special ballots to be counted in the official results.

The review made several recommendations: strengthening and adding controls, harmonizing procedures across business lines, improving communications, and clarifying and reinforcing governance around incident management. Elections Canada accepted all recommendations.