Executive Summary – Special Report of the Chief Electoral Officer: Administering an Election during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Elections Canada must be ready to administer an election at any time—including during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency has been closely monitoring the outbreak, and we believe that it presents a challenge with respect to three fundamental and inter-related aspects of our electoral administration: the provision of accessible, safe and secure voting services for electors, the availability of election workers, and the availability of polling locations.
To fully understand and address this challenge, Elections Canada established a working group earlier this spring to consider potential legal, administrative and operational changes in order to deliver an accessible and safe election.
As a result of the working group's efforts, contingency planning is under way, and a variety of measures will be implemented during an election that takes place amid the pandemic. Such measures will leverage existing administrative flexibility under the Canada Elections Act (the Act) to protect the health and safety of electors, election workers, candidates and other persons involved in the conduct of an election while continuing to maintain effective services and the integrity of the electoral process.
However, legislative changes are also advisable to allow the implementation of some measures.
To this end, the Chief Electoral Officer recommends the study and adoption of a new statute that would temporarily modify certain provisions in the Act. The proposed statute would be limited in scope and temporary in effect, that is, it would, unless extended, expire six months after the next general election. In addition to procedural elements, the proposed statute would contain three substantive elements:
- Element 1: Replacement of Monday as polling day with Saturday and Sunday as a two-day polling period; and an increase in voting hours from 12 hours over one day to 16 hours over two days.
- Element 2: Authorization for the Chief Electoral Officer to determine how and when voting will occur in long-term care facilities.
- Element 3: Adjustments to the power to adapt the Act in an emergency situation in order to provide greater flexibility in response to the pandemic.