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Chapter 6 – Selecting Polling Places (09/2019)

For more information on polling places, consult: Volume II, Landlords, Polling Places and Polling Stations in Chapter 2

6.1 Polling Place Search (Pre–event Assignment)

As part of pre-event assignments, the CEO mandates ROs to identify and select suitable polling places for ordinary, advance and mobile polls. ROs must visit, evaluate and assign electors to a variety of polling places. Technological and security factors are also to be considered.

6.2 Voting Service Enhancements

6.2.1 External Service Points

External service points (ESPs) are AARO offices located on post-secondary institution campuses across Canada. The ESP programme provides students and other electors with the possibility to vote by special ballot on campus during an electoral event.

As part of pre-event activities, ROs will identify and evaluate suitable spaces for setting up ESP offices in participating institutions.

The Polling Place Suitability Checklist (EC 12152) lists criteria used to evaluate ESPs.

The ESP office layout is similar to the service centre’s layout in the RO office (consult section 7.2.4 Service Centre Layout) but with the addition of the AARO–ESP and an information officer (IO). The AARO–ESP’s role is similar to the RO’s role in the RO office. They manage and oversee the logistics and day-to-day activities, and ensure that the SPSs, SAs and IOs are performing their tasks properly. The SPSs supervise and schedule the SAs, support them when they have questions, and call ECHQ with unresolved issues. The SAs serve electors, and provide in-person revision and special ballot voting services. The IOs ensure that electors line up appropriately and have the proper ID. This helps to reduce wait times and ensures that electors are processed smoothly.

The SPS in the RO office has hours allotted for training the AARO–ESP and the SPS–ESP. If required, the SPS in the RO office can help the SPS–ESP train the SAs. Once the equipment is set up, the SAs’ training can take place either in the ESP office or in the RO office where there is typically a projector available.

Figure 2 External Service Point Office Layout (sample)
Figure 2 External Service Point Office Layout (sample)

Text Description of "Figure 2 External Service Point Office Layout (sample)"

6.3 Types of Polling Places

A polling place is the building where electors go to cast their ballot. In law, this is now called the polling station. The polling place has desks that serve the electors for a polling division. Polling places are usually churches, schools, community centres or other public buildings.

There is at least one polling table for every polling place. The ballot box for each polling table displays the corresponding polling division number.

6.3.1 Ordinary and Advance Polling Places

Before an electoral event, the RO is to visit, evaluate and select the places for ordinary and advance polls and assign polling divisions to them. If possible, polling places should be public buildings that are familiar, convenient and in proximity to electors. As much as possible and if suitable, the RO should consider the same polling places as the ones used for previous elections, whether at the federal, provincial or municipal level.

6.3.2 Mobile Polls

A mobile poll is a poll that is located in two or more institutions where seniors or persons with a physical disability reside; each institution serving between 10–150 electors. A mobile poll allows people who would find it difficult or impossible to vote at ordinary polls to vote where they live. Since electors of mobile polls generally reside in accessible facilities, it is not necessary to conduct a Polling Place Suitability Checklist (EC 12152) for these locations; however, the checklist can be completed to ensure accessibility. The institutions should be within reasonable driving distance of one another so that elections officers have enough time to travel between institutions on polling day.

6.3.3 Single Building Polls

Single building polls serve the population of a single residential address, like an apartment building. A single building poll usually serves between 150 – 400 electors. During pre-event assignments, the voting area of a single building poll is visited and evaluated using the Polling Place Suitability Checklist (EC 12152).

6.4 Key Principles of Polling Places

The Policy on Selecting Suitable Polling Places (EC 12154) was developed to inform electors and political entities about the key principles justifying the RO's selection of polling places. The RO is responsible for implementing the Policy when selecting potential polling places and for observing its key principles.

6.4.1 Accessibility

Consult Chapter 2 – Accessibility for detailed information on the subject.

6.4.2 Proximity

Returning officers assign electors to a polling place nearest to their residence. Once polling places are identified, polling division and advance polling district boundaries are drawn based on the polling place that will be assigned to it. The size of the area is based on both proximity to electors and the capacity of a polling place.

6.4.3 Contact with First Nations and Indigenous Communities

It is very important to engage with First Nations band administrators and Indigenous community leaders to discuss the opportunity for collaboration in the next GE.

The discussion should centre on the following:

  • Possibility of having an ordinary polling place on the reserve and the proximity its location offers to electors
  • The option of voting by special ballot

6.4.4 Capacity

The capacity of a polling place is important as it determines the maximum number of electors a polling place can hold at one time. However, the polling place must accommodate much more than just electors. Consider how much space the following will require before choosing a polling place:

  • Tables with ballot boxes
  • Tables with voting screens
  • Registration desks
  • Poll workers
  • Candidates' representatives
  • Electors

Prior approval from the CEO is required to set up more than 10 tables in a polling place (see 2.6.1 CEO Authorizations).

6.4.5 Signage

Directional signage and their placement should be noted while visiting and evaluating polling places. On polling days, all electors must be directed to a single-level access entrance by using the most direct path to the building. In general, the elector should be able to see the next directional sign from any sign on the path.

Sketch the building exterior on the back of the Polling Place Suitability Checklist (EC 12152) to help electors enter the building. Include the positioning of signage to the accessible entrance. Share the sketch with the CPS to assist with polling day set-up.

6.4.6 Parking

While parking is not a mandatory accessibility criterion, it is preferable that the location provide parking if available. If so, at least one parking space must be reserved for electors with a functional limitation. Identify the space using the international accessibility signs or Level Access Sign (EC 10960).

6.4.7 Public Transit

Where available, the polling place must be in an area serviced by public transportation.

6.5 Lease Agreement Form

As stated in the Introduction to Polling Place Leases training activity, the lease protects the RO's and the CEO's rights as user and tenant of the premises respectively. The Lease also protects the landlord by making everyone's responsibilities and obligations clear. The lease includes important information such as the lease rental period, the rental amount to be paid and the method of payment.

During the pre-event period, negotiations with polling place landlords and ESP institution administrators are to be started as early as possible to review the rental rate and lease clauses, as well as to resolve any complications or issues that may arise. Early negotiations will avoid delays in securing facilities during the election calendar.

Although a lease is required for ordinary and advance polls as well as for ESP institutions, a lease is not required for mobile polls since poll workers at a mobile poll occupy the space for only a few hours. Given the different requirements for mobile polling places, a written license agreement, or another less formal written agreement, may be helpful for these locations. A written agreement allows you to record the terms that you and the landlord have agreed to.

Leases may not be signed prior to the issue of the writ unless the CEO has given his authorization.

6.5.1 Records of Decisions

While EC establishes selection criteria, the responsibility of selecting polling places ultimately rests with the RO. During the pre-event "Keep Warm" period, the RO must complete a Record of Decision for each polling place to justify and explain the elements that were considered when selecting a polling place.

For further information, consult the section Record of Decision section in Volume II of this Manual.

6.6 Polling Location Management Applications

The following applications on the Field Personnel Intranet (under RO Toolkit), will help fulfill pre-event activities:

  • The Polling Place Suitability Checklist – consult section 2.3.1
  • Accessibility Feedback Monitoring System (ICBMS)
  • iSITES – consult section 2.4