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.
- All special ballots are shipped in bulk at the end of the voting period (in accordance with the Act).Footnote 9
- The MVC provides the Commanding Officer/deputy returning officer with Elections Canada accounts for priority post via Canada Post or by courier.
- The Commanding Officer/deputy returning officer completes a DND 728 form and emails/faxes it to the MVC to report that a shipment of ballots has been sent.
- The chief clerk in the MVC office is responsible for monitoring and tracking shipments based on information contained in the DND 728 form.
- Deputy returning officers are instructed to return the ballots using the most expedient method available. As a result, it can be more challenging for the MVC and the chief clerk to track the return of shipments.
- In an electronic deck presentation,Footnote 10 deputy returning officers are encouraged to ship completed ballots to the MVC as often as practicable, which occurs in some cases (e.g. with larger CAF units). This limits the risk of packages going missing or being overlooked. However, it increases the number of shipments that need to be tracked. It also increases the risk of errors.
- There is no procedure for informing the mailroom of incoming shipments.
- In the case at hand, the package containing special ballots was sent by Purolator from a military unit in Edmonton, Alberta, on October 10, 2015. According to the procedure, a DND 728 form would have been faxed or emailed to the MVC to enable the chief clerk to track the shipment. We were unable to confirm (1) whether the form was sent or (2) whether the information was included in the tracking sheet. Neither document was available for review.
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.
- There are recurring communications (weekly) between the AVM team responsible for incarcerated electors and the liaison officer that facilitates the coordination of pickups at correctional institutions for election materials.
- Each liaison officer has a designated Canada Post contact for the coordination of election material pickups at the correctional institutions.
- The incarcerated vote coordinator is responsible for addressing issues with the courier service and requesting changes when needed.
- The team has tracking information for all incoming courier mailbags (delivered in monotainersFootnote 11).
- All incoming monotainers are expected, and their reception at the distribution centre is logged by the AVM team in the tracking information sheet.
- Mailroom staff are notified by the AVM team of incoming deliveries.
- The AVM staff will contact the liaison officer if a package has not arrived.
- The procedures in place to run the incarcerated electors program can be used as best practices for other AVM teams.
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.
- Electoral coordinators are instructed to ship completed special ballots (international) to the distribution centre daily during an electoral event, which lowers the impact if packages go missing or are overlooked.
- Packages sent by courier are delivered to the front entrance of the distribution centre (rather than at the loading dock to be processed by the mailroom). There is no procedure within AVM for tracking these shipments.
- Diplomatic bags are sent by missions to Global Affairs Canada. Special ballots are then hand delivered to the distribution centre. There is no procedure within AVM for tracking these shipments.
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).
- The special ballot coordinator or another authorized officer documents the number of issued special ballots in control sheets and faxes the control sheets to AVM (Control Sheet for Bar Code Labels) at scheduled intervals.
- The special ballot coordinator or another authorized officer is provided with courier waybills, which allows for the tracking of shipments to the distribution centre.
- During a general election, special ballots are shipped to the distribution centre on a weekly basis until Day 6 (and each time the RO/AARO office receives 100 completed ballots during that period), at which time daily shipments are sent.
- Day 5 is generally the final day that completed special ballots (national) are shipped from RO/AARO offices.
- Completed special ballots are shipped by the special ballot coordinator to the distribution centre from SVRE sites twice daily (10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.) during SVRE voting, which lowers the impact if packages go missing or are overlooked.
- There is communication between the AVM team at the distribution centre and SVRE staff after close of SVRE (each day) to identify the number of completed special ballots (national).
- ROs/AAROs have the discretion to use whichever mail service they want to deliver the ballots to the distribution centre. They are provided with a number of waybills for a specific service provider.
- Each of the RO/AARO offices may send a number of shipments to AVM. More shipments require more coordination and potentially contribute more confusion or room for error. More shipments also lower the impact of ballots being overlooked or going missing.
- Tracking of these shipments (national) is not done by AVM staff at the distribution centre, and staff are not provided with tracking information from RO offices.
- The RO manual does not mention the use of waybills or the requirement to track shipments.
- AVM staff and the mailroom generally do not have an expected delivery date (national).
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.
- No controls exist.
Return to source ofFootnote 6 Paragraph 267(1) of the Act.
Return to source ofFootnote 7 The courier prepares labels for each correctional institution, which include the distribution centre's address and a barcode with a tracking number.
Return to source ofFootnote 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.
Return to source ofFootnote 9 Page 8; http://www.forces.gc.ca/assets/FORCES_Internet/docs/en/jag/deputy-returning-officer-guidebook.pdf
Return to source ofFootnote 10 Slide 16; http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/about-reports-pubs-military-law/cf-deputy-returning-officer-briefing.page
Return to source ofFootnote 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
Return to source ofFootnote 12 Electors may also return their ballots by delivering them to a CAF base (paragraph 228(b) of the Act).
Return to source ofFootnote 13 Diplomatic bags are sent to Ottawa under a specific schedule, and it is increasingly more convenient to ship special ballots using courier services.