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4. Voting Services – Report on the 2019 By-elections

Electors can cast their ballot at their assigned advance polling station during one of the four designated days, at their assigned polling station on election day, by special ballot at an Elections Canada office or by mail. Other voting methods are also available for residents of long-term care facilities and seniors' residences, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and incarcerated electors.

Polling places

For the by-elections in Outremont, York–Simcoe and Burnaby South, the returning officers established 37 polling stations at 17 polling places for the advance polls and 447 polling stations at 78 polling places on election day. A total of 12 mobile polling stations visited 40 establishments.

For the 2019 by-election in Nanaimo–Ladysmith, the returning officer established 17 polling stations at nine polling places for the advance polls and 229 polling stations at 29 polling places on election day. A total of six mobile polling stations visited 20 establishments.

Table 5 in the Appendix breaks down the number of polling stations and polling places for each electoral district.

Elections Canada also expanded its Polling Place Suitability Checklist, used for evaluating the accessibility of potential polling places. In consultation with its Advisory Group for Disability Issues, the agency increased the 35 accessibility criteria to 37. Fifteen of these criteria are mandatory; the new criteria involved specifications for the pathway from a parking lot to a building's entrance and for the distance from public transit stops. The accessibility of each polling location was printed on the VIC, with more detailed information available on the Elections Canada website.

Across the four electoral districts in the 2019 by-elections, 165 of the 170 polling places met the 15 mandatory accessibility criteria.

Voting

Voting at assigned advance and election day polling places

In Outremont, York–Simcoe and Burnaby South, the majority of voters (more than 73%) chose to cast their ballot at their polling station on election day. Approximately 25% voted at the advance polls. These turnout numbers help confirm a continuing upward trend of electors choosing to vote in advance of election day.

In Nanaimo–Ladysmith, the majority of voters (more than 73%) also chose to cast their ballot at their polling place on election day. A further 24% voted at the advance polls.

Pilot project: Voting process optimization

An optimized, paper-based voting process was used in the Outremont, York–Simcoe, Burnaby South and Nanaimo–Ladysmith by-elections to provide faster and smoother service to voters.

The objectives of this voting process were to:

  • improve and simplify the voting experience
  • align advance and election day polling procedures as much as possible
  • simplify polling procedures, while reducing both the number of exceptions and the number of administrative products at the polls

The process also aimed to improve working conditions and training for election officers, compliance with the legislation and the integrity of the electoral process.

Voting by mail or at an Elections Canada office

Under the Special Voting Rules (SVR) provisions of the Canada Elections Act, electors can vote by mail or at any Elections Canada office. Canadians temporarily outside their electoral district or living abroad can apply online for a special ballot voting kit to be mailed to them.

For every by-election, Elections Canada communicates with its partners in the Canadian Armed Forces, at Correctional Service Canada and at Global Affairs Canada to disseminate information and registration materials to those electors whose address of ordinary residence is in the electoral district.

In the 2019 by-elections in Outremont, York–Simcoe and Burnaby South, 844 electors voted by special ballot. This represents 1.5% of the electors who voted, compared to 3.3% in the 2015 general election. In the 2019 by-elections in Nanaimo–Ladysmith, 1,007 electors voted by special ballot. This represents 2.4% of the electors who voted, compared to 4.0% in the 2015 general election.

In the Appendix, Table 6 breaks down the vote by category for each electoral district. Table 7 breaks down special ballot voting.

Voter turnout

For the 2019 by-elections, 95,978 registered electors voted in Outremont, York–Simcoe, Burnaby South and Nanaimo–Ladysmith.

In the Appendix, Table 8 shows turnout by electoral district and compares turnout rates with those for the 2015 general election. Historically, voter turnout in by-elections is lower than in general elections.

Pilot project: Ballot modernization

Elections Canada piloted the production and use of a new ballot design for the 2018 and 2019 by-elections. The new design had been developed in consultation with the political parties and stakeholder groups, such as the disability community, and focus-tested with a cross-section of Canadians.

The new, larger ballot features larger font sizes and, to increase legibility, displays the candidates' surnames in upper-case letters. The agency also improved the processes for ballot printing, which reduced the labour required during assembly and improved quality control.

As there were no issues reported with the new ballot, the Chief Electoral Officer approved its use for the 2019 general election.

Projects enabled by IT Services

Elections Canada deployed new field telephony systems and introduced an online case management system to enhance services to field staff and candidates. Both systems had been designed for the 43rd general election and were carried out during the 2019 by elections. These deployments were an opportunity for field staff to test these systems and to refine processes and training manuals before the general election.

Also in preparation for the general election, Elections Canada took the opportunity to continue refining governance, processes and technologies related to the security posture of the new web-hosting facility set up in late 2018.

Adaptation

Under the Canada Elections Act, the Chief Electoral Officer may, for the sole purpose of enabling electors to exercise their right to vote or enabling the counting of votes, adapt the Act under subsection 17(1) to address an emergency, unusual or unforeseen circumstance, or error. Adaptations apply only during an election period or within 30 days of election day.

During the 2019 by-elections, there were no adaptations.