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Meeting Summary – Annual General Meeting – June 19 and 20, 2017

Electoral Services Modernization

Michel Roussel, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Electoral Events and Innovation, provided an update on four key areas where EC aims to improve electoral services:

  • Urban voting centres: A new voting model that uses on-site information management systems and electronic poll books would reduce wait times.
  • Remote communities: Additional advance voting options would improve services in remote and sparsely populated areas where distance to the polling place is a concern.
  • Electors voting outside their electoral district: Electors who cannot or do not want to vote at their designated polling places would benefit from more special ballot voting opportunities (e.g. campus-based voting).
  • Online services for political entities: Political entities would access all electoral services and tools from a web portal.

Mr. Roussel also reminded the Committee that there are two critical requirements to implementing many of the service enhancements. First, there are amendments to the Canada Elections Act, which would give the CEO more flexibility in how the polling places operate. Secondly, the technology needed to support more efficient operations must be proven available, reliable, usable and secure. The agency will take a cautious and incremental approach to introduce only proven technology in the administration of the electoral process and will require vendors to adhere to rigorous federal government security and privacy standards. In support of this, we are working with the Communications Security Establishment to ensure the integrity of the devices.

Jacques Mailloux, Executive Director, Electoral Innovation, provided an update on the Polling Place Process Enhancement project, about which the Committee was consulted in September 2016. Specifically, he advised the Committee that EC had selected to implement the model with separate full-service and express tables enabled by technology. This model would include an electronic poll book and list that is shared among all service points (polling station or table) in a polling place to enable the sharing of the list of electors between tables in a polling place. This would allow an elector to be served at the next available service point, rather than having to vote at a specific, pre-assigned service point within a polling place. We expect significant improvements in average wait times once this process is applied. The proposed model, which was generally seen as more simple and efficient, also has the support of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) and the Advisory Group for Disability Issues (AGDI).

Mr. Mailloux also summarized some of the assumptions regarding EC's current deployment strategy. That is, there will be two separate business models supporting voting administration in the next general election: one enabled by technology where needed and one without technology. A final deployment strategy will also consider costs, reliability, viability and residual system-wide risks, all of which will be confirmed through procurement processes over the spring and summer.

Round Table Discussion

A member enquired about the status of the proposed legislative changes required for the implementation of the proposed voting model. Anne Lawson, General Counsel and Senior Director, Legal Services, answered that PROC has published three interim reports endorsing the CEO's recommendations in this regard.

Some members expressed their concerns about security, privacy and potential failures of the voting model. Mr. Mailloux assured members that protecting the privacy of Canadians is a top priority for EC and that safeguards have been included as part of the procurement process. As for potential failures of the new system, EC officials clarified that it would be possible to adapt operations to fall back on the current voting process.

There were questions regarding "bingo sheets," which refer to the forms used to record the identifier number of electors who came to vote, in the new model. Mr. Mailloux explained that bingo sheets would not be in real time as the network in polling places would not be connected to the Internet for security reasons. Data would be transferred from internal networks to external machines using USB keys, but the exact process has not been finalized.

Overall, members supported the Polling Place Process Enhancement project and expressed their interest in knowing more about future opportunities for their participation and engagement.