Election Worker Recruitment in a Pandemic Environment – CEO Appearance on the Special Report of the Chief Electoral Officer: Administering an Election during the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Elections Canada anticipates recruitment challenges for the next general election due to safety concerns of potential election workers, further exacerbating the recruitment and retention challenges experienced in 2019.
- Administrative measures are being implemented to mitigate these challenges by improving working conditions, offering election workers a safe environment, and implementing a new staffing model to reduce the number of workers required and to facilitate physical distancing at the polls.
- Among other advantages, the proposed legislative change to allow two days of weekend voting would also assist with recruitment by opening up a new workforce who would normally be at school or work on a Monday.
- At the 2019 general election (GE), Elections Canada hired 232,000 election workers and office staff.
- On polling day, October 21, 2019, 47% of poll workers were 60 years of age or older, and 57% were 54 years of age or older. The majority of poll workers are of retirement or near-retirement age.
- Elections Canada anticipates that it will need to hire more local office staff during the 44th GE to serve electors who want to vote by mail, and more poll workers to ensure crowd control, to clean and disinfect polling places, and to maintain quality assurance.
- While this will be offset by the consolidation of poll clerk and deputy returning officer (DRO) duties into one role, the recruitment of a large enough number of election officers remains a challenge since nearly half of the workforce at the last GE would have been of an age that public health authorities consider more at risk of COVID-19 related complications.
- A recent survey commissioned by Elections Saskatchewan found that fewer election workers over the age of 60 would be willing to work again in an election held during the pandemic.
Elections Canada is implementing new initiatives to address some ongoing recruitment challenges, including:
- Recommending holding elections over the weekend in order to attract more Canadians who work or attend school on weekdays to work at the polls.
- Consolidating the poll clerk and DRO duties into one role to reduce transmission risks and help offset the increase in staff needed for other Covid-19 related duties.
- Reviewing its staffing model (positions, salaries, tasks and job titles) and improving working conditions for poll workers.