Voting Services in Long-term Care Facilities – CEO Appearance on Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (COVID-19 response)
Elections Canada is prepared to implement a broad range of options contemplated by Bill C-19 in arranging for the delivery of voting services to long-term care (LTC) facilities.
Elections Canada is consulting with provincial health authorities and LTC facilities' administration ahead of the election.
Service options are being discussed and will be agreed upon with LTC facilities administration at the time of the election and according to local circumstances.
The Canada Elections Act authorizes the administration of "mobile polls" to serve multiple LTC facilities on polling day and to proceed room-to-room where necessary within facilities.
In 2019, 5,334 LTC facilities were visited by a mobile poll. This figure includes both care facilities for the chronically ill and seniors' homes.
Elections Canada estimates that an additional 700 seniors' residences were large enough to be served by an ordinary poll (single building polling division). It is likely that seniors' homes of a smaller size were served by their neighborhood polling station; these smaller homes are not recorded differently than other apartment buildings.
Elections Canada does not conduct mobile polling in facilities where there is an infectious disease outbreak. In such instances, returning officers (ROs) will be working closely with administrators and offer a suite of potential voting services, including the vote by mail option.
Elections Canada officials have been engaging with federal, provincial and local public health authorities for months now, and will continue to monitor the situation in order to respect the regulations regarding access to LTC facilities.
Flexibility is required to extend the operation of polls to retirement homes and LTC facilities over multiple days during the writ period:
to avoid visiting different facilities on the same day, by the same election officers;
to accommodate the requirements and schedules of facility administrators;
to allow for extra time to register new residents, as Elections Canada will not be entering the facility early or multiple times to do targeted revision; and
to allow for extra time to set up floor by floor, or provide room-to-room voting services, where electors are confined to specific areas of the facility to prevent outbreaks
Staffing voting operations within LTC facilities will be challenging and may require facility staff or volunteers to be trained as election officers in order to administer the vote within their facilities. Preliminary data from a recent pre-event assignment conducted by ROs indicate that 902 or 16% of the facilities approached to discuss the best options, indicated a preference for involving facility staff to support the delivery of voting services rather than other people who don't regularly visit the LTC facility.
Where facility administrators are providing letters of confirmation of residence, Elections Canada will accept a letter with all of the residents listed, to be used as proof of address, to reduce workload and effort on the facilities during this very difficult time.
If access to LTC facilities is prohibited, special ballot voting will be possible, though challenging given the ID requirements and the complexity of the special ballot voting process. Where possible, administrative staff from within each facility or a community relations officers (CRO) for seniors will be leveraged to assist with the ID requirements and pick-up/drop-off of kits.
Based on experiences delivering voter services to LTC facilities in the recent by-elections in Toronto Centre and York Centre, as well as recent provincial elections, it is important to have a variety of voting options available to ROs to meet the diverse circumstances of these facilities across the country.
Elections Canada is working with a network of stakeholders who can provide advice on the planning, delivery and communication of voter services to LTC residents. This network was and may continue to be consulted on issues related to vote-by-mail, early voting and polls at these facilities on election day, how to engage facility staff in the delivery of the vote, and ensuring that residents have appropriate identification on hand to vote.
An Elections Canada working group has been established to assess how to simplify the voting process for residents of these facilities and to make it easier for them to meet identification requirements while maintaining the integrity of the process.
As of May 7, 2021, the recent pre-event assignment conducted by ROs in February and March allowed Elections Canada to develop a preliminary view of the possible service offering in these LTC facilities and other type of senior residences. These are preliminary and many facility administrators indicated that these could change if there was an
outbreak, or if the situation improved and there would be low rates of COVID cases locally and vaccinations were widespread.
1002 (17%) facilities opted to have a traditional ordinary single building polling station.
2273 (40%) facilities indicated a preference to have an adapted advance polling station.
962 (17%) facilities indicated that a coordinated special ballot voting service will be preferable for their residents.
725 (13%) identified a preference for a vote by-mail without support from their staff.
Only 24 facilities indicated that their residents will go at RO office to vote.
287 (5%) institutions declined the services, which means that electors will have vote by mail option only.
461 (8%) facilities told to ROs who have contacted them that at this stage they are not in a position to confirm the preferred voting services.