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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

Annex: Elections Canada's
Response to the
Recommendations of the Senate
and House Committees

Recommendations of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Committee recommendation (summarized) Elections Canada's response
1.  That prior to the Winnipeg North by-election, Elections Canada ensure that those who use the audio program of the AVD are required to hear the names of all candidates on the ballot before being allowed to select their candidate. Electors were informed that they would hear the entire list of candidates, as recommended by the Committee, but could select the candidate of their choice at any time. This ensured that they were afforded the same opportunities as other electors.
2.  That when the AVD is used by a visually impaired voter during the by-election, such voters be allowed to bring a friend, family member or other observer up to the device with them, to watch the elections officer fold the marked ballot before placing it in the ballot box. Electors had the option to bring a friend, family member or other observer, as recommended by the Committee.
3.  That prior to the by-election, Elections Canada take steps to ensure that the vocabulary used in the AVD's audio program is as simple and straightforward as possible. In response to the Committee's recommendation, Elections Canada ensured that the vocabulary employed in the AVD's audio program was as simple and straightforward as possible.

Note to Recommendation 4:

  • The Senate committee has included sub-recommendations for Elections Canada to provide information on AVD costs and performance metrics in other jurisdictions, cost estimates for the device in a general election, and the implications of using this technology over the next five years – in essence, to build a business case for changing the electoral process.
  • As noted earlier, while other electoral jurisdictions have used AVDs, they did not necessarily track usage by electors with disabilities. Consequently, the information available is of doubtful comparative value.
  • The fundamental questions raised by the committee will need to be addressed with full rigour, should the agency ever propose extending the use of assistive voting technologies to federal general elections. However, given the results of the pilot project, the agency does not recommend such an extension and has chosen not to invest further efforts and resources into building a business case in that area.
Recommendations of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Committee recommendation (summarized) Elections Canada's response
4.  That the Chief Electoral Officer report back to the Committee within three months after the by-election, with information on:  
  • other devices or voting methods comparable to the one tested in the by-election that might be more efficient and cost-effective

In most cases, these data are not readily available or comparable. Table 2 of the report provides the information gathered to date.

Some jurisdictions are implementing Internet or telephone voting, which could reduce barriers for electors with disabilities. Elections Canada is planning an Internet voting pilot for a by-election called after 2013, which will require prior approval from parliamentarians.
  • how well the AVD used in the by-election or any similar device performed

The pilot project demonstrated that the AVD did not meet Elections Canada's requirements; as such, comparison with other jurisdictions is of limited value.
  • costs associated with this or similar devices

Information is not readily available for most jurisdictions, nor is it itemized along the lines requested.
  • the number of users of this or a similar device in past provincial or municipal electoral events

Information is not readily available as, generally, jurisdictions did not track use by disabled electors.
  • the number of individuals with disabilities who used the AVD in the Winnipeg North pilot project

Five electors used the device. See Section 4.
  • details of the communications strategy used by Elections Canada in the by-elections

A comprehensive, multi-faceted communications and outreach campaign was implemented. See Section 3.
  • whether Elections Canada believes the AVD pilot project to have been a success, the metrics used to measure its success, and a cost-benefit analysis of the pilot project

Based on feedback from voters, election workers and representatives of individuals with disabilities, Elections Canada has concluded that the type of AVD used in the pilot project in Winnipeg North is not a solution that lends itself to federal electoral events and does not meet the expectations of electors with disabilities.
  • any research conducted or relevant statistics

Representatives of individuals with visual or other impairments are increasingly insisting on their right to vote independently while preserving the secrecy of their ballot. However, there is a lack of evidence-based research evaluating the effectiveness of existing mechanisms in place to assist voters with disabilities, including statistics on the need for an AVD.
  • the cost of the next general election

The cost of the 41st general election is estimated at $290 million.
  • the estimated costs of using the AVD in the next general election
  • the implications of using this technology over the next five years

Should an initial evaluation indicate that a technological solution meets Elections Canada's requirements, this would be addressed during the preparation of a business case.

Recommendation of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Committee recommendation (summarized) Elections Canada's response
1.  That the AVDs be placed in areas visited by a large number of electors The AVDs were placed in locations serving a significant number of electors – that is, at all advance polls, the local Elections Canada office, and seven central polling sites on voting day serving 35 percent of the electorate in Winnipeg North. Transfer certificates were available for electors at other polls who might wish to use the devices. See Section 4.