New Elections Canada Report warns about tipping point, calls for major modernization by 2019

By Rachel Roy

Elections Canada’s Retrospective Report on the last federal election has just been released. The Report incorporates data from various post-election surveys (some of which we’ve blogged about previously) and audits, and will form the basis of Elections Canada’s recommendations regarding amendments to the Canada Elections Act. Overall, the Report emphasizes that significant changes to election procedures are necessary to keep pace with modern voting habits and to address issues that arose during the campaign.

In particular, the Report recommends the following:

  • Reducing the proof-of-address barrier by adding the voter information card to the list of authorized pieces of identification, in light of the fact that over 170,000 Canadian were unable to meet identification requirements, especially with regard to proof of address

  • Adapting election planning to take better account of potential surges in voter turnout, particularly at advance polls

  •  Ensuring the electoral process is simpler, more efficient and more flexible in order to adapt to the fundamental shifts in voting behaviours resulting from changing lifestyles, personal and family situations, and service preferences

  • Establishing a defined election period to ensure that Elections Canada is able to adequately train and deploy staff (the same is true for political parties)

  • Streamlining and automating services at polls as the current method of relying primarily on increased staffing to improve voting services is not sustainable (i.e. in 2015, 50,000 more poll workers were hired than in 2011 but there were still numerous complaints about service at polling stations)

  • Improving hiring processes and work conditions for poll workers and creating/expanding online training for workers

  • Focusing on revamping voting operations on First Nations reserves to avoid ballot supply issues (which resulted in a number of voters being turned away from the polls)

Finally, the Report warns that action is needed now to avoid future crises:

“Given this shift and the number of years between elections, it is essential to recognize that the success of the 42nd general election is no guarantee of favourable outcomes in the future. This is not the time for complacency. In Elections Canada's estimation, federal electoral administration has reached a tipping point and action is required now. The transformation in elector behaviours and service preferences is significant, and a new baseline must be set in terms of meeting, and hopefully exceeding, electors' service needs.”