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Independent audit report on the performance of the duties and functions of Election Officers – By-election December 3, 2018

4 Findings – Major and Other Observations

Our audit findings and conclusions are presented on an aggregate level. Our results do not identify any specific polling site, polling station or election officer. Our key findings and other observations are described below.

4.1 Performance of the duties and functions of election officers

A Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years of age on election day may vote in the ED in which they reside. The CEA provides procedural safeguards designed to protect the integrity of the electoral process, one of which requires electors to prove eligibility (identity and residence) before receiving a ballot. For most electors who are already registered at their current address and therefore included on the List of Electors, election day procedures involve a simple, efficient check of one or more pieces of acceptable identification to confirm identity and address of residence. Based on electoral activity during our periods of observation, approximately 96% of electors voted in this manner in this by-election on an aggregate basis. The remaining 4% of electors required special administrative procedures prior to being issued a ballot and exercising their right to vote. The electors who required special procedures were electors who needed to register (Registration Certificate) or electors who required a minor correction to their electoral information on the List of Electors (Correction Certificate).

4.2 Major findings

4.2.1 No major findings resulting from deviations in key controls and procedures for electors served during period of observation

Our testing did not identify any major findings from deviations in key controls and procedures for electors served during our periods of observation at advance and ordinary polls. For our sample, the election officers generally obtained and determined the appropriateness of identification provided by the elector, confirmed that the individual was at the correct polling station and on the List of Electors, confirmed that the individual had not previously voted, and struck the elector’s name off the List of Electors.

4.3 Other observations

For key controls, a deviation of 2%–4.9% was considered an other observation. For secondary controls, a deviation of 11% or more was considered an other observation.

4.3.1 It was observed that election officers did not consistently mark an elector as voted at the appropriate point in the process

Section 162 of the CEA stipulates that the PC must indicate that the elector has voted. This allows for effective reconciliation of the ballots. This is typically evidenced by a check mark in the box next to the name of the elector on the List of Electors or the Record of Entries (for those electors not on the List of Electors). The CEA prescribes that this duty must be performed as soon as the elector’s ballot has been deposited in the ballot box. This duty is in addition to having to cross off the elector’s name when the elector appears on the List of Electors.

Our audit identified instances, above our reporting threshold for a secondary control, where the PC did not mark the elector as having voted as soon as the elector’s ballot was deposited in the ballot box. In some cases, the PC marked the elector as having voted before the elector cast their ballot while, in others, the PC marked the elector as having voted well after the elector had cast their ballot and left.

If electors are marked off as having voted prior to ballots being issued or well after an elector has left the polling site, the lack of real time monitoring results in the inability to confirm whether the elector did in fact cast their ballot.

4.3.2 It was observed that one DRO did not sign or date the Correction Form

When changes are required to an elector’s information as compared to the List of Electors, a Correction Form must be completed by the REGO/DRO. Regardless of which election officer completes the form, the DRO is required to sign and date the form at the bottom prior to processing the elector.

Our audit identified instances, above our reporting threshold, where one DRO did not sign and date the Correction Form. This could create difficulties in identifying which election officer processed the form. Although this observation occurred above our reporting threshold, this is due to the fact that we observed only a few instances requiring special procedures. Of these instances, a number of them were related to the Correction Form and as a result, exceeded the reporting threshold.

4.3.3 It was observed that, for special procedures requiring the use of a prescribed form to complete the processing of the elector, the Privacy Notice requirement was not administered in all cases

The prescribed forms for special procedures include a requirement to make the elector aware of and/or provide the elector with a copy of the Privacy Notice. This notice informs electors of the confidentiality of and terms of use for their personal information. The electors must acknowledge awareness of the Privacy Notice by initialing the respective section of the prescribed form.

During our period of observation, we noted instances, above our reporting threshold, where the elector was not made aware of and/or provided a copy of the Privacy Notice prior to being asked to initial the respective section for the prescribed form acknowledging their awareness.

4.4 Assessment of administrative controls established by EC

As mentioned above, Elections Canada’s changes to the forms, certificates and record-keeping instructions have clarified and streamlined the activities of the election officers. The feedback from election officers confirmed their satisfaction with these changes and with the corresponding instructions in the guidebooks to facilitate the timely and accurate completion of the forms and certificates.

The changes to the forms, certificates and record-keeping instructions resulted in modifications to administrative controls such as the training material (e.g. guidebooks) and the training curriculum. Accordingly, our review of the administrative controls was based on reviews of training material as compared to that of the 42nd general election, attendance at in-class training sessions and enquiries of election officers at advance and ordinary polls as a basis for forming our conclusion.

For the December 3, 2018 by-election, 635 resources were recruited and trained to work at advance and ordinary polls. This pool of resources included a redundancy factor to allow flexibility for those who dropped out in advance or did not show on the day of voting.

In order to equip the temporary workforce hired to successfully serve electors, a formal training program was in place and delivered to each election officer in advance of taking on their responsibilities. The majority of election officers for this by-election had previous experience in the general election and/or previous by-elections. Overall, feedback from election officers on the content of the training program and the format of how the training was delivered was positive. Further, they found the availability of the guidebooks and other aids useful in assuming their responsibilities and troubleshooting when they were unsure of how to proceed. Based on our observation of the training sessions, review of training material and interviews with election officers, we concluded that, overall, EC’s training program is comprehensive and is effective for providing prescriptive guidance and support to the temporary workforce that was hired to work at the by-election.

The content and format for the training program provided for this by-election has undergone some changes since the 42nd general election, most significantly providing more time for practice scenarios. Similar to the results of the 42nd general election, interviews with a sample of election officers confirmed that, while the training consisted of an intensive 3-hour course with few if any breaks, this time did not allow for all topics to be covered in sufficient detail or in a manner in which they could absorb all the material being presented. As a result, similar to the feedback provided from the general election, there could be benefits to extracting and providing elements of the training as pre-reading so that the focus of the in-person training could be on the more complex elements of the election officer’s responsibilities. We understand from EC that this opportunity continues to be assessed.

As it is widely accepted that the introduction to and practice of special procedures is a critical element of the in-class training, we recommended in our report for the 42nd general election that additional time continue to be provided to work through practice examples of those special procedures with the availability of the training officer for support. Since the 42nd general election, the time allocated for the practice of special procedure handling has increased and this section of the training is presented earlier in the training curriculum. This was noted and appreciated by participants. As part of our observation of the training for this by-election, we noted some confusion with the training for the special procedures as they were not individually introduced first by the training officer. The participants were presented with a circumstance to deal with and they were expected to use the tools available to them to assess the type of situation and what actions to take. Once completed, the training officer would review the elements of the special procedure. From our observation, training participants were confused when faced with an unknown circumstance and ended up asking the training officer individually for support. In the end, many participants did not get through all the practice examples and therefore were never introduced to some of the special circumstances they could face at the polls. During our period of observation at advance and ordinary polls, only a few special procedures were administered; however, in the majority of these cases, election officers struggled with the administration of these special procedures and in some cases, errors were observed in the processing of these voters by the election officers.

EC has modified its tools and guidance since the 42nd general election. In many cases, these improvements were highlighted and appreciated by the election officers interviewed. The guidebooks were confirmed to be a useful resource for election officers in preparation for and on advance and ordinary polling days. Election officers further confirmed their appreciation for the role of the central poll supervisor as a resource to support them in the performance of their duties. We noted that, in the case of verifying acceptable identification, training officers communicated that expired forms of identification (e.g. driver’s license) were still acceptable as long as the expired ID had the elector’s name and current address; however that information was not presented in the tools (guidebooks, ‘Have your ID Ready’ document). Some election officers further indicated that the pictures in the guidebooks could be larger and the examples could include more detail as there was some confusion in following the guidebook for specific special procedures.

The above noted considerations and opportunities should be taken into consideration as the training program for the 43rd general election is planned and executed.