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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

2. Description of the Assistive
Voting Device Used in
Winnipeg North

An AVD is a piece of electronic equipment that allows an elector with a visual impairment or limited dexterity to mark a ballot independently and in secrecy.

Such devices have been used in provincial and municipal elections in Canada. Table 2 provides details of the use of AVDs by other Canadian jurisdictions, as called for by the Senate committee in its recommendations.

Table 2 – Use of Assistive Voting Devices in Other Jurisdictions in Canada
Jurisdiction Experience* Planned future use
New Brunswick
Municipal and provincial elections
May 2008 municipal elections. AVD coupled with a vote tabulator used in a number of returning offices.

September 2010 provincial election. AVD coupled with a vote tabulator deployed in every returning office and satellite office.

Number of users: not known.
Status quo
Provincial elections
March 2009 by-election, Haliburton–Kawartha Lakes–Brock. AVD coupled with a vote tabulator tested in all 9 advance polls and in the returning office.

Number of users: 9.

September 2009 by-election, St. Paul's. AVD coupled with a vote tabulator tested in the returning office only during the advance polls.

Number of users: 2.
Planned to be deployed in every returning office and additional returning office in the upcoming provincial election (approx. 140 machines).
Municipal election, Ottawa October 2010 municipal election. AVD coupled with a vote tabulator deployed at all advance polls and on voting day in seniors' residences and long-term care facilities.

Number of users: not known.
Not known
Ontario (cont.)
Municipal elections, various
October 2010 municipal elections. AVD coupled with a vote tabulator deployed in various circumstances.

Number of users: not known.

Municipalities: Toronto, Mississauga, Burlington, Kawartha Lakes, London, Markham, Midland, Oshawa, Peterborough, Port Hope, Prince Edward County, Quinte West, St. Catharines, Thunder Bay, Vaughan, Whitchurch–Stouffville, Windsor.
Not known
Municipal elections, Winnipeg and Brandon
October 2006 municipal election, Winnipeg. AVD coupled with a vote tabulator used at advance polls.

October 2010 municipal elections, Winnipeg and Brandon. AVD coupled with a vote tabulator.

Number of users: not known.
Not known

*Note: The experience of other jurisdictions is of interest, but it is not fully comparable with the experience of Elections Canada. In many cases, these jurisdictions have not gathered data that would allow comparison.

Where vote counting is automated, AVDs have been used in conjunction with a vote tabulator. Since vote counting in federal elections is manual, Elections Canada has been interested in the devices for the sole purpose of offering an additional service to electors with disabilities – one that would enable them to vote independently and in secrecy.

Through a competitive procurement process, Elections Canada selected Dominion Voting Systems to supply AVDs on a rental basis for the Winnipeg North by-election. The supplier had to meet three primary requirements:

  • The device had to have been developed with the participation of disabilities organizations and people with different abilities, and the company had to provide examples of the device's successful use.
  • The technology had to be able to accept regular ballots printed by Elections Canada, which would then be indistinguishable from and counted in the same way as other ballots cast in the by-election.
  • The device needed to enable electors with disabilities to vote independently and in secrecy.

The device used in the Winnipeg North by-election provided the following accessibility features, making it suitable for electors with visual impairments or limited dexterity:

  • a tactile controller with Braille buttons
  • a sip-and-puff attachment that allowed voters to select options using their breath
  • rocker paddles
  • audio with volume and speed control for hearing choices through headphones
  • a high-contrast screen with text that could be enlarged

The AVD had an audio and/or visual review function that allowed electors to confirm their choice of candidate before printing the ballot. It was also compatible with cochlear implants.

To cast a ballot using the AVD, electors first selected the language and accessibility features they wanted to use. The device provided visual and/or audio instructions.

When the elector was ready, the device displayed and/or spoke the candidates' names. The elector then used the input method of his or her choice to select a name. The device displayed and/or spoke the name of the elector's chosen candidate, giving the elector an opportunity to confirm the selection.

In response to the Senate committee's recommendation, Elections Canada ensured that the vocabulary employed in the device's audio program was as simple and straightforward as possible.

A printer attached to the AVD marked a regular ballot, which was then placed in the ballot box. The device did not store information or count votes.

At the close of polls, officials followed Elections Canada's usual process to count ballots. Ballots marked by the device were indistinguishable from those marked by hand.

High-contrast screen
High-contrast screen


Rocker paddles
Rocker paddles

Tactile controller
Tactile controller