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Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada – Following the Pilot Project on the Use of an Assistive Voting Device in the November 29, 2010, By-election Held in Winnipeg North

Executive Summary

Elections Canada offers a range of services to facilitate voting by electors with disabilities. However, the available services do not always permit electors with certain disabilities to vote without assistance and in secrecy, as other electors.

In accordance with section 18.1 of the Canada Elections Act, with the approval of parliamentarians, the agency conducted a pilot project of an assistive voting device (AVD) for use by persons with disabilities in the November 29, 2010, by-election in Winnipeg North. The objective was to assess whether this technology would be a viable option allowing electors with disabilities to cast their ballot independently and in secrecy. The agency would then evaluate the feasibility of large-scale implementation in a future general election.

Elections Canada conducted a preliminary assessment and issued a request for proposals for a device to be piloted during a federal by-election. The agency organized a comprehensive, multi-faceted communications and outreach campaign for the pilot, with three objectives: to build public awareness of the AVD; to engage organizations representing electors with disabilities and reach potential users; and to evaluate the campaign and gather feedback.

The AVDs were placed at advance polls, the local Elections Canada office and seven central polling sites on voting day. At the sites where the device was available, 25 people said that they required assistance to vote. Of these, five electors opted for the device.

Elections Canada gathered feedback from AVD users, obtained comments from election workers, held a post-election meeting with organizations representing electors with disabilities and conducted a post-election survey of electors in Winnipeg North.

The pilot project allowed Elections Canada to conclusively evaluate the merits of the AVD and, from that point of view, was a success. From the information gathered, Elections Canada found that the AVD used in the Winnipeg North by-election was not a practical solution enabling electors with disabilities to vote independently and in secrecy. There were also significant operational challenges involved in deploying the device.

The agency has concluded that it will not proceed further with this device, but will continue to study additional methods that could facilitate voting for electors with disabilities. In the meantime, Elections Canada will continue to offer those electors a wide range of services.