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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

6. Return of Special Ballots to the Distribution Centre

This section covers the procedures for the return of special ballots to the distribution centre in Ottawa. The processes vary depending on whether the special ballots are returned in bulk or individually. The method of return is not prescribed by the Act; however, to be counted, all ballots must be received by the SVRA by 6:00 p.m. (Eastern time) on polling day.Footnote 6

6.1 Ballots Returned in Bulk

The information for the return of special ballots in bulk is summarized in the table below. It is based on established procedures. Further detail is provided in subsections 6.1.1 to 6.1.4.

Type of electors Frequency of shipment Method of shipment Tracking of returns
CAF electors At the end of the voting period (as per the Act) Most expedient method available The chief clerk within MVC team tracks shipments coming by courier with a tracking sheet. Information comes from a form (DND 728) sent to the MVC, by email or fax, to report the date and time of shipment, the means of shipment, the shipping tracking number (if applicable), and the number of special ballots in the package.*
Incarcerated electors At the end of the voting period (as per the Act) Courier mailbags,
pre-labelledFootnote 7 and provided in advance to liaison officers/deputy returning officers.
The AVM team for incarcerated electors tracks incoming shipments using a tracking sheet.* The team receives tracking information and estimated arrival times for each courier mailbag.
International electors As often as possible (daily shipments) Embassies and consulates (missions) return ballots by courier. Diplomatic bags are returned to Global Affairs Canada, which hand delivers the ballots to the distribution centre. No procedures within AVM for tracking shipments.
National electors During a general election, shipments are sent on a weekly basis until Day 6, at which time daily shipments are sent.

SVREFootnote 8 sites ship twice daily (10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.)
Returning officers/additional assistant returning officers can use regular mail or courier. They are provided with waybills for a courier. No procedures within AVM for tracking shipments. Tracking information for packages sent by courier is available and could be used by the RO/AARO to track the return of ballots to the distribution centre. However, the RO manual does not mention the use of waybills or the requirement to track shipments.

For SVRE, the special ballot coordinator ships ballots to the distribution centre twice daily (10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.). The special ballot coordinator informs the AVM team when shipments are made. There is no procedure for tracking the shipments.

* The tracking sheets and DND 728 forms used by the various teams were not available for review.

6.1.1 Canadian Armed Forces Elector Ballots

At the end of the voting period, the deputy returning officer of each CAF unit delivers to the Commanding Officer all marked special ballots. The Commanding Officer is responsible for returning the special ballots to the CEO in Ottawa.

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6.1.2 Incarcerated Elector Ballots

After the vote, the deputy returning officer of each correctional facility delivers to the liaison officer all marked special ballots. The liaison officer is responsible for returning the special ballots to the SVRA in Ottawa.

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6.1.3 International Elector Ballots (via Global Affairs Canada)

Some international and/or national electors choose to return their completed ballots through Canadian embassies and consulates (missions).Footnote 12 The electoral coordinator is instructed not to accumulate special ballots over time. Missions return special ballots to Ottawa in diplomatic bags, or they are shipped by courier service, whichever is the most expedient.Footnote 13 In most instances, international electors return their completed ballots directly to the distribution centre without relying on Global Affairs Canada as an intermediary. See 6.2 below.

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6.1.4 National Elector Ballots (via RO/AARO offices/SVRE)

National electors may return their ballots to the distribution centre in Ottawa or cast them at any returning officer (RO) or additional assistant returning officer (AARO) office (see 6.2 below).

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6.2 Ballots Returned Individually

Many national and international electors choose to return the special ballots to the distribution centre directly, in which case they are responsible for ensuring that their ballot (in its inner and outer envelopes) is received by the distribution centre in Ottawa before the legislated deadline. Electors who choose to return their own ballots do so at their own expense, using whichever shipment method they prefer.

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Footnote 6 Paragraph 267(1) of the Act.

Footnote 7 The courier prepares labels for each correctional institution, which include the distribution centre's address and a barcode with a tracking number.

Footnote 8 For the 42nd general election, Elections Canada opened 71 additional assistant returning offices in select institutions (post-secondary institutions, Friendship Centres, community centres) across the country to make voting by special ballot more accessible to certain target groups. See Appendix C (Glossary) for more details.

Footnote 9 Page 8; http://www.forces.gc.ca/assets/FORCES_Internet/docs/en/jag/deputy-returning-officer-guidebook.pdf

Footnote 10 Slide 16; http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/about-reports-pubs-military-law/cf-deputy-returning-officer-briefing.page

Footnote 11 A large, collapsible steel-frame container used to transport mail between postal facilities and large volume mailers. https://www.canadapost.ca/tools/pg/glossary-e.asp#M

Footnote 12 Electors may also return their ballots by delivering them to a CAF base (paragraph 228(b) of the Act).

Footnote 13 Diplomatic bags are sent to Ottawa under a specific schedule, and it is increasingly more convenient to ship special ballots using courier services.