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Retrospective Report on the 42nd General Election of October 19, 2015


I am pleased to present Elections Canada's second report following the 42nd general election. The first report, issued in February 2016, provided a factual narrative of the conduct of the election and painted a portrait of its size and complexity. This retrospective report discusses the results of our post-election assessments. It examines the experience of electors, candidates and election officers, and the feedback provided by returning officers and political parties following the election. It also contains the results of the Independent Audit Report on the Performance of the Duties and Functions of Election Officials – 42nd General Election.

Elections Canada had two main objectives for the 42nd general election. The first was to provide Canadians with more convenient and accessible registration and voting services. The second was to maintain Canadians' trust in the electoral system by increasing the agency's capacity to detect and address incidents that could interfere with elector participation, and by improving poll workers' compliance with voting day procedures.

The findings of our review reaffirm the success of the 42nd general election and the progress we made toward achieving our objectives.

Electors knew when, where and the ways to register and vote. They perceived Elections Canada as the most trusted source of election information and did not hesitate to communicate with the agency via a number of channels, including social media, to share their questions, experiences, concerns and complaints.

Evidence indicates that service improvements were successful overall, notably those related to online registration, outreach to younger voters, streamlined procedures at the polls, training for candidates and their officials, and the issuance of written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes for political entities. Polling locations also had greater levels of accessibility. All of these improvements were generally well received by electors, political entities, returning officers and poll workers. In the end, 96 percent of electors were satisfied with their voting experience.

There was no evidence of any systemic incidents having interfered with voter participation. The vast majority of electors and political entities continued to express confidence in Elections Canada's administration of the election and in the voting results. The independent audit of poll worker performance concluded that, overall, the election was administered in compliance with prescribed procedures. The audit made recommendations for further improvements, including automating certain components of the electoral process and streamlining some of the more complex procedures. Our own findings are consistent with those recommendations.

Despite its success, this election demonstrated in many ways that we have reached the optimal performance that can be achieved under the current electoral management regime.

Many electors and candidates were dissatisfied with long lineups and delays during advance polls, and they openly voiced their expectations for service improvements. A large increase in the number of poll workers was needed to deliver the election in compliance with highly prescriptive and complex legislation that is at times characterized by outdated procedures and controls. Returning officers were challenged to respond to increased voter turnout under a regime that constrains their ability to recruit election workers; provides little flexibility to rapidly scale services to demand; and presents barriers to automation for the most basic, repetitive and tedious tasks.

Elections Canada is already taking action to build on the lessons learned and the successes of the 42nd general election. We are at work on an electoral services modernization agenda that will enhance the experience of electors in the areas of voter information, voter registration and voting services. Later this fall, I will also present my recommendations report to Parliament. It will suggest legislative changes to improve the administration of the Canada Elections Act and allow the agency to pursue modernization in response to Canadians' evolving expectations.

It is time to bring federal electoral management into the 21st century.

Marc Mayrand
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada