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Local Outreach in the 41st General Election

Purpose of this Report

During the 41st general election, a number of evaluation activities were conducted that were related in whole or in part to local outreach and the Community Relations Officer (CRO) program. This report summarizes the key observations from these activities. Based on these observations, the report provides Elections Canada's Outreach Coordinating Committee with recommendations for enhancing local outreach to target groups in the areas of work between elections, the outreach function in the local Elections Canada office ("RO office"), recruitment and training, local outreach supporting access to the electoral process, outreach tools and the Aboriginal Elder and Youth Program.

Information Sources

Information for this report was gathered from the following sources on the 41st general election:

  • 41st General Election Evaluation Survey Report of Proceedings (41st GE Evaluation Survey): Presents results of surveys of returning officers in the 41st general election.
  • Aboriginal Elder and Youth Program Evaluation Survey: Provides results of surveys of those working in the program during the election.
  • Community Relations Officer Program Observations Summary Report (CRO Summary Report): Presents observations and recommendations from visits with CROs in the field during the 41st general election.
  • Community Relations Officer Evaluation Survey (CRO Evaluation Survey): Provides an analysis of 303 questionnaires completed by CROs.
  • Outreach Progression Report Summary: Summarizes the responses to the weekly questionnaire, completed by returning officers, on CRO activities.
  • Returning Officers Post-Mortem Sessions Summary: Provides feedback from returning officers following the 41st general election.
  • Summary of Outreach Activities in the 41st General Election: Presents comments by CROs on the effectiveness of outreach activities.
  • 41st General Election Survey of Administrators Regarding the Use of the Voter Identification Card as Proof of Address (Survey of Administrators): Presents the results of a June 2011 survey of administrators in seniors' residences and long-term care facilities, First Nations band offices and student residences.

Recommendations Summary

Work Between Elections

  • Undertake the following outreach activities on an ongoing basis before and between elections:
    • Conduct more work immediately preceding the election to ensure that when the election is called, field staff are ready to deliver outreach activities supporting registration, voting, and the dissemination of information to electors about the electoral process. Tasks would include identifying what was done in the previous election, reconnecting with past contacts or establishing new relationships (particularly important when working with Aboriginal communities), establishing action plans in collaboration with administrators and consulting administrators to find solutions to possible barriers to registering and voting. This process would be greatly facilitated by additional pre- and post-election work, such as tracking completed activities, the results of those activities, as well as best practices, and by keeping records current.
    • Conduct local outreach to support civic education, such as an annual civic education blitz to schools, educators, school boards and associations. Determine who is best suited to do this work the returning officer, field liaison officer or someone else.

The Outreach Function in the Local Elections Canada Office

  • Complete a review of outreach activities performed in the field and consider who could best do them (community relations officer, targeted revision agent, special ballot coordinator).
  • Review the role and functions of the CRO position and ensure they are understood by CROs.
  • Make one role the single point of contact at the local Elections Canada office to coordinate and work with the other relevant positions (e.g. revision supervisor, special ballot coordinator) and to liaise with external stakeholders and administrators of long-term care facilities and post-secondary institutions.
  • Examine ways to coordinate outreach across electoral districts and regions.

Recruitment and Training

  • On an ongoing basis, Elections Canada in Ottawa (headquarters) should provide support to returning officers in recruiting and training CROs. This support would include:
    • Providing recruitment guidelines and recommendations
    • Offering recruitment training to returning officers and assistant returning officers
    • Examining the feasibility of making the position more attractive to candidates (improved pay scale, additional hours between elections)
    • Developing an outreach orientation program for returning officers, CROs and any field staff involved in outreach activities, with a consistent curriculum
    • Considering a formal program that recruits students from post-secondary institutions and offers ongoing work throughout the year on a four-year cycle

Local Outreach Supporting Access to the Electoral Process

  • CROs should continue to collaborate with administrators in seniors' residences and long-term care facilities, post-secondary institutions, and band administrators, and to work closely with all target groups to facilitate access to, and provide information about, the electoral process.
  • Face-to-face field outreach should be leveraged when introducing changes in the electoral process and communicating how, when and where to vote.
  • The voter identification regime should be simplified.

Outreach Tools

  • Promotional tools should be enhanced by using plain language in all materials, tailoring content for target groups, and translating more materials into various languages.
  • Field staff performing outreach functions should be provided with the necessary tools, such as a computer or laptop and communications devices, to perform effectively in the role.
  • Elections Canada should develop a policy on the use of social media and a social media and Web tool kit that would guide field staff in the appropriate and effective use of these new platforms.

Aboriginal Elder and Youth Program

  • While there were fewer participants in the program in the 41st general election, the majority of Elders, youth and CROs who were surveyed indicated that the program continues to provide benefits to the electors it serves and is well received within the community. The program should be continued and reviewed as more information becomes available through research on barriers to the electoral process experienced by Aboriginal people.