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Report on the October 24, 2016, By-election in Medicine Hat–Cardston–Warner

2. Activities Since the Last Statutory Report

2.1 Audit of Financial Returns from the 2015 General Election

Nearly 1,800 candidate returns were received for the 2015 general election. Although the long election period resulted in considerable candidate expenses, essentially all candidate files that resulted in a reimbursement of election expenses to the candidates were completed and reimbursements were made in accordance with Elections Canada's service standards. The agency is currently reviewing the returns of candidates who are not eligible for reimbursement. This should be concluded by August 2017. Financial reports can be found on Elections Canada's website at elections.ca > Political Financing.

2.2. Review of Special Ballot Administrative Procedures

During the 2015 general election, approximately 29,000 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) electors cast their ballots through the Special Voting Rules process. The operation of CAF voting was generally successful. Unfortunately, in one instance, a parcel of 247 marked, sealed special ballots from a CAF unit was inadvertently set aside at Elections Canada's distribution centre in Ottawa and not discovered until after counting had taken place.

The incident was recorded by Elections Canada's Military Vote Coordinator and related to the Coordinating Officer at the Department of National Defence shortly after election day. However, it was not brought to the attention of the Chief Electoral Officer until October 2016. At that point, the Chief Electoral Officer considered unsealing and counting the ballots. However, he ultimately decided against it since: a) it would not have changed the outcome in any of the 139 electoral districts in which the ballots were cast, and; b) adjusting the vote totals at that point would have compromised the secrecy of the vote. The Chief Electoral Officer immediately contacted the political parties that are entitled under subsection 183(1) of the Act to appoint special ballot officers, to inform them of the incident and of his decision. 

To ensure that such an incident is prevented in the future, the Chief Electoral Officer mandated an administrative review of the procedures for sending and receiving special ballots. The review found that the incident was isolated. It concluded that with better procedures and systems, the incident could have been detected in time for the special ballots to be counted in the official results.

The review made several recommendations: strengthening and adding controls, harmonizing procedures across business lines, improving communications, and clarifying and reinforcing governance around incident management. Elections Canada accepted all recommendations. A review of processes, procedures and training material will be conducted and changes will be implemented before the next general election. Elections Canada will also develop practical instruments to facilitate the timely identification, escalation and resolution of severe risks and incidents.

The administrative review can be found on the Elections Canada website at elections.ca > Resource Centre > Reports > Other Reports.