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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada following the May 12, 2003, and the June 16, 2003, by-elections

Communicating with electors

An important part of Elections Canada's work during a by-election, as in all electoral events, is to inform the public, political parties, candidates and news media about the by-election process and the key dates in the election period.

One of the principal tools for communicating with the public during the May 12 and June 16, 2003, by-elections was the voter information card. This card, which was sent to all the electors registered on the preliminary lists, specified where and when to vote, and indicated the voting options for those who did not want to go to the polling station on election day.

Elections Canada uses census data to find out whether there are ethnocultural or Aboriginal communities within an electoral district, of a size that would warrant translating information into other languages. Although translation was not necessary in any of the three electoral districts, we sent information kits to ethnocultural associations and Friendship Centres. We made essential information available on request to special-needs organizations in alternative formats, including Braille, large print, and audiocassette, but we received no requests for the material.

During the three by-elections, we brought radio and print advertisements into play on several occasions. The arrival of the voter information card was supported by print ads in daily and weekly newspapers and by radio ads broadcast several times on stations serving listeners in the electoral districts. During the last five days of the campaign, we ran print and drive-to-work radio ads to remind electors to check their voter information cards for the location of their polling stations, and to let them know that they could register to vote on election day, with proper identification.

We also provided information to the media to make sure that electors had the information necessary to vote. For each by-election, we distributed a media information kit with the news release launching the election period, a profile of the electoral district, a calendar of important dates, and background information on topics ranging from the electoral process and the role of Elections Canada to the Special Voting Rules, the National Register of Electors, and election expenses and contributions guidelines for candidates and parties.

Over the course of each campaign, we issued 15 news releases highlighting key dates, election day reminders, and explanations of the election rules, including clarification of what the media could and could not report on election day. We also posted all news releases in the media section on our Web site.

On our Web site, we set up a special by-election section where electors could find information specific to their electoral districts, including the lists of official candidates, the electoral district maps, the addresses and telephone numbers of the returning officers, and general information on the voting process and voting by special ballot. On election night, we posted results on the Web site as they became available.

Throughout the election periods, bilingual staff of our Enquiries Unit was available through our toll-free telephone line, our toll-free TTY line for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, and on the Web to answer questions and send out information about the electoral process.