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Administrative Review of Procedures for the Tracking and Handling of Shipments Containing Special Ballots at Elections Canada's Distribution Centre in Ottawa

4. Overview of the Special Voting Rules

Any elector who cannot or does not wish to vote at a polling station during a general election may vote using a special ballot. With a special ballot, an elector can vote by mail or in person at the office of any returning officer. If the elector is away from his or her electoral district, inside or outside Canada, he or she can also register to vote with Elections Canada in Ottawa.

Voting by special ballot is governed by the SVR, set out in Part 11 of the Act. A Special Voting Rules Administrator (SVRA) is appointed by the Chief Electoral Officer to oversee the administration of these rules. The AVM directorate supports the SVRA in his or her functions.

In the context of this report, the SVR apply to the following five categories of electors:

  1. Canadian electors temporarily away from their electoral districts during a general election, whether in Canada or abroad (national electors)
  2. Canadian electors in their electoral districts who cannot or do not wish to go to an ordinary or advance poll to vote (local electors)Footnote 2
  3. Canadian citizens residing outside Canada (international electors)
  4. CAF electors
  5. Incarcerated electors

For each of these five categories, the elector must have a civic address for his or her place of ordinary residence in Canada, set using different criteria for electoral purposes. The elector's vote will be counted for the electoral district corresponding to that address.

More information about registration, mode of voting and how special ballots are counted can be found on Elections Canada's website.Footnote 3

The AVM directorate is the only group at Elections Canada that carries out polling activities, including registration of voters, issuing of ballots, and counting and reporting of votes.Footnote 4 The group typically moves to the distribution centre during the general election readiness phase. During the 42nd general election, the SVRA directorate comprised 14 teams. A number of the approximately 25 core staff take on supervisory positions as the team's workforce augments to about 175 operational staff and 165 special ballot officers.

Each category of electors is managed by a coordinator within the AVM directorate. The coordinators are permanent employees of Elections Canada, except for the MVC. The MVC is hired for his or her in-depth knowledge of military operations, which is crucial to ensuring that CAF members can vote.

Prior to the 42nd general election, the AVM directorate reviewed individual processes for each category of electors. A number of briefing and training materials were also streamlined or supplemented. The newly appointed MVC, along with Elections Canada staff, developed a manual that outlined the MVC's responsibilities, procedures and electoral calendar tasks.

Elections Canada provided training in person, via webcast or by way of guidebooks and electronic presentations to a number of stakeholders (for example, foreign service employees, special ballot coordinators, liaison officers, deputy returning officers, etc.).

The SVR process experienced a record number of transactions during the 42nd general election. Overall, 618,801 special ballots (all types) were cast.Footnote 5 The largest portions of those ballots (local electors) were counted in returning officers' offices. The AVM staff counted 193,688 special ballots at the distribution centre in Ottawa. The SVR service centre staff also processed 35,083 incoming and outgoing emails and telephone calls.

Footnote 2 These special ballots are not sent to the distribution centre in Ottawa for counting.

Footnote 3

Footnote 4 All other polling activities are undertaken by returning officers.

Footnote 5 Report on the 42nd General Election of October 19, 2015; Appendix: Table 7;