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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

7. Reception of Special Ballots at the Distribution Centre

This section covers the processes in place when completed special ballots are received at the distribution centre in Ottawa, including both the processes of the mailroom and those of the AVM directorate.

During the readiness phase of the general election, the processing room coordinator meets with the distribution centre manager and the managers and coordinators for each AVM team to organize the pickup of incoming mail, the processing of outgoing mail and the delivery of mail internally.

During the 42nd general election, the distribution centre received shipments from the offices of 338 returning officers and 171 additional assistant returning officers, 71 SVRE sites, 110 CAF locations, 197 correctional facilities, and 133 embassies and 101 consulates. In most cases, these locations sent more than one shipment.

Mail and packages are received at the distribution centre at two different access points. The usual practice is for all deliveries to go to the loading dock, at the back of the building. These deliveries are signed for and processed by the mailroom staff. The mailroom is located near the loading dock. Because of health and safety concerns, mobility of AVM staff on the first floor of the distribution centre is limited.

During the 42nd general election, arrangements were made by AVM staff to receive international deliveries from TNT (the courier service chosen through a procurement exercise for international deliveries) at the front entrance. These deliveries were handled directly by AVM staff rather than by the mailroom. There are no clear explanations as to the reasons for requiring two access points for deliveries. This practice seems to have developed out of convenience.

The information regarding the reception of special ballots at the distribution centre is summarized in the table below. The reception of special ballots is governed by established procedures. Further details on each type of elector are provided in subsections 7.1 and 7.2. It is important to note that for CAF electors and international electors, deliveries could be received at both access points at the distribution centre: the loading dock and the front entrance (as indicated below).

It is unclear whether the procedures outlined below were followed at all times during the 42nd general election. Based on interviews, it appears that more than one courier may have been able to deliver packages containing special ballots to the front entrance. Tracking sheets or logs were not available for our review to confirm this information.

Type of electors Mailroom (loading dock) AVM (front entrance) Mailroom notification
CAF electors All deliveries from CAF units (except for TNT courier) All deliveries from TNT courier None
Incarcerated electors Monotainers from correctional facilities (containing pre-labelled courier bags) None The mailroom staff is notified by the AVM team of incoming deliveries
International electors All deliveries (except for TNT courier) All deliveries from TNT courier None (Deliveries of individual ballots are not tracked, and there is no notification for any other deliveries)
National electors All deliveries None None

7.1 Mailroom

When completed special ballots are received through the mailroom, they are processed and placed on a cart outside the mailroom door; or, for larger shipments, monotainers are forklifted to the SVR administrative centre on the upper floor of the distribution centre. Dedicated AVM runners pick up mail from the cart and bring it upstairs on an ongoing basis. Generally, mailroom staff notify the AVM when the mail has arrived, and sometimes the mailroom staff bring it upstairs.


  • Designated runners from the AVM directorate are responsible for bringing mail from the mailroom to their administrative centre.
  • During critical days of the electoral calendar (Day 6 and Day 0), the ballot processing team (AVM) conducts pickups from the cart frequently, with a last check at 6:00 p.m. on polling day.
  • AVM staff do an inspection of the mailroom several times on Day 6, which is the deadline for registration.


  • All staff working in the mailroom during an electoral event are experienced and knowledgeable. As a result, no formal training is provided for mailroom staff during electoral events.
  • The procedures for moving special ballots between the mailroom and the AVM are not documented. There was also confusion over responsibilities and authorization regarding who could bring mail from the mailroom to the MVC's office (and vice versa) at the distribution centre during the 42nd general election.
  • There are no manual or automated mail management tools to log shipments that are received by the mailroom (other than from couriers' proprietary tracking systems).
  • There are no manual or automated mail management tools to track the movement of mail internally at the distribution centre.
  • There are no protocols or practices for routine inspections or sweeps of the mailroom to identify packages containing ballots on Day 0 (polling day).
  • In the case at hand, the small package (shoebox size) was delivered by a courier service at the loading dock and was signed for by a member of the mailroom staff. The waybill on the package described the content of the box as "Special Ballots – Military Vote." The package was inadvertently set aside by a member of the mailroom staff in an area reserved for items that should be handled after the election. Our interviews with mailroom staff and the distribution centre manager did not add any information that would explain the circumstances that led to this error. The package was processed by mailroom staff on October 29, 2015. The MVC was immediately notified, and the package was delivered to him without delay.

7.2 Alternative Voting Methods Directorate

AVM staff receive international shipments (mail and packages) directly from TNT courier at the front entrance. The commissionaire notifies the appropriate AVM staff member of a package's arrival, and the staff member then collects the package from the commissionaire's station, signs for it and takes it upstairs.


  • Controls for tracking the movement of shipments are the same as the ones identified under section 6.
  • Couriers have proprietary tracking systems for handling shipments. This information is sometimes provided to AVM staff.


  • Procedures for the reception of mail at the distribution centre are not documented.
  • It is unclear whether packages from other courier services are delivered to the front entrance.
  • There are no manual or automated mail management tools to log shipments that are received by the commissionaire (other than from couriers' proprietary tracking systems).
  • There are no manual or automated mail management tools to track the movement of mail internally at the distribution centre.