3. Voter Registration Services – Report on the 2019 By-elections
National Register of Electors
Elections Canada maintains the National Register of Electors, a database of Canadians who are 18 years or older. The Register is regularly updated between and during elections, using administrative data received through agreements with federal, provincial and territorial agencies. Specifically, agreements are held with the Canada Revenue Agency; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; most provincial and territorial agencies responsible for driver's licensing and vital statistics; and provincial and territorial electoral management bodies.
When an election is called, the agency uses data from the Register to produce the preliminary lists of electors, which are provided to registered and eligible political parties and to returning officers. Returning officers then provide the lists to the local confirmed candidates, as required by the Canada Elections Act. The preliminary lists are also used to produce the VICs, as a basis for the revised lists of electors (with elector information added during the revision period) and the official lists of electors (the lists used on election day).
Coverage, currency and accuracy of the Register
The quality of the information held in the Register is key to ensuring that all electors receive a VIC at their current address. It is also important to political parties and candidates wanting to engage with electors. Quality is a function of three factors: coverage, currency and accuracy.
Coverage is the proportion of eligible electors who are registered to vote. Historically, national coverage has varied between 91% and 94%. In the 2019 by-elections, the coverage of the preliminary lists was 99% in Outremont, 96.1% in York–Simcoe, 93.3% in Burnaby South and 95.8% in Nanaimo–Ladysmith.
Currency is the proportion of eligible electors who are registered at their current address. Historically, the national currency has varied between 81% and 86%. In the by elections of 2019, the currency of the preliminary lists was 93.1% in Outremont, 91.2% in York–Simcoe, 76.2% in Burnaby South and 85% in Nanaimo–Ladysmith.
Accuracy is the proportion of registered electors who are listed at their current address. These electors are correctly registered and can vote without taking extra steps. Accuracy is calculated by dividing the currency estimates by the coverage estimates. Historically, national accuracy has varied between 88% and 92%. In the 2019 by-elections, the accuracy of the preliminary lists was 94% in Outremont, 94.9% in York–Simcoe, 81.7% in Burnaby South and 88.7% in Nanaimo–Ladysmith.
Many factors may affect the quality of the lists, including demographic changes and the timely availability of data. The occurrence of these factors may vary by region. However, revision activities carried out by returning officers and through online registration in the weeks before election day aim to improve the quality of the lists.
The revision period began on Day 42 (January 14, 2019) for the Outremont, York–Simcoe and Burnaby South by-elections and on Day 40 (March 27, 2019) for the Nanaimo–Ladysmith by-election. The revision period for all the by-elections ended at 6:00 p.m. on the sixth day before election day.
During the revision period, Elections Canada offices in each electoral district offered registration services in person and over the phone. Service agents were also sent out to update address information for electors living on First Nations reserves, in long-term care facilities, student residences, and high-mobility and new residential neighbourhoods. Throughout the 2019 by-elections, electors could also go online to check whether they were registered, update their address or complete their registration.
Table 4 in the Appendix provides details on the number of electors on the preliminary lists of electors and the changes made to the lists during the revision period for the four electoral districts involved in the 2019 by-elections.