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Electoral Integrity Framework: Principles and Objectives

Principle: Accessibility

An accessible electoral process is inclusive and meets the needs of Canadians so that they can exercise their democratic rights to vote and be a candidate, equitably and without undue barriers or interference.

Objective Examples of how Elections Canada helps achieve this objective

The electoral process is inclusive

We conduct research and consultations to better understand and mitigate barriers to participating in the electoral process (whether as a candidate, an elector or an election worker).

To create a workforce that reflects the community we serve, our main and local offices implement hiring and management practices that promote diversity and equity.

Returning officers work with the local communities to ensure that cultural, linguistic and geographic considerations are reflected in the electoral services provided, including when choosing polling site locations.

Returning officers take the necessary measures, such as prioritizing the hiring of bilingual workers, to communicate with and deliver electoral services to electors and candidates in their preferred official language at all designated offices.

Eligible electors can vote with dignity and independence

When designing programs and services, we consider the needs and preferences of Canadians in diverse circumstances.

We work with stakeholders to identify and remove physical, administrative and informational barriers to voting with dignity and independence.

We use technology and tools to provide service options that meet the needs of electors.

We assess our programs and services to help ensure they are accessible.

At the electoral district level, returning officers choose suitable polling places that provide barrier-free access and, where possible, are in a familiar and proximate location to electors.

Canadians can exercise their right to be a candidate

We help ensure that prospective candidates have the information they need to participate in the electoral process and that they do not face undue physical, administrative or informational barriers.

At the electoral district level, returning officers meet with local political party representatives and prospective candidates to answer their questions about the nomination process and about the rights and obligations of candidates.

Canadians have reliable information about how to participate in the electoral process

We recognize that to participate in the electoral process, Canadians require accurate and timely information on how to register and vote, and a general understanding of how the electoral process works.

We provide authoritative, current information on these topics in multiple languages and formats. 

We disseminate this information through a variety of channels and formats to reach the broadest possible audience of Canadians.

Where inaccurate information is circulating widely, we take steps to counter it with facts.

Canadians feel safe and free to participate in the electoral process

Accessibility requires that citizens be free from threats and interference when participating in the electoral process and that they feel safe doing so.

We strive to ensure that local offices and polling locations are safe for electors, election workers, candidates and their representatives, and other members of the public.

Election officers are non-partisan and work to keep voting locations free of partisan activity and signage.

We respond quickly to reports of incidents that could hamper participation or safety. 

Principle: Fairness

Fair electoral administration means that regulated political entities are  ̶  and are perceived to be  ̶  treated equitably and impartially, and can compete on a level playing field.

Objective Examples of how Elections Canada helps achieve this objective

Regulated political entities are treated equitably to promote conditions that allow them to compete on a level playing field

We help ensure that all political participants have equitable access to information about the CEA and how to comply with it.

We provide clearly written manuals, instructional videos and other tools to regulated political entities to ensure they understand how to comply with their obligations under the CEA's political financing provisions.

We treat regulated political entities impartially by subjecting them to equitable levels of scrutiny, for example through audits of financial returns and reviews of nomination papers.

Where the CEA provides room for Elections Canada to regulate and set policy, we establish clear and consistent rules to help ensure fairness.

The election administrator is impartial and non-partisan

We administer and regulate federal elections in a fair manner through non-partisan, impartial behaviour — behaviour that is strengthened by declarations of non-partisanship that prohibit Elections Canada personnel from being a member of, donating to or publicly supporting or opposing political entities at the federal or provincial/territorial level.

The Chief Electoral Officer, staff, returning officers and election officers take steps to avoid actual and perceived partisanship and conflicts of interest.

Electoral boundaries are adjusted following each decennial census to reflect changes in population and communities of interest

We provide administrative and technical support to the independent electoral boundaries commissions, without influencing their work.

Principle: Independence

Independence means that the electoral process is administered and regulated without undue influence from the government or partisan entities and interests. While Parliament sets electoral legislation, Elections Canada remains functionally independent from the government, due in part to its statutory authority to draw funds required to conduct federal elections and referendums.

Objective Examples of how Elections Canada helps achieve this objective

The election administrator actively maintains genuine independence from the government and partisan entities

Elections Canada maintains clear and objective separation from the government of the day, from partisan entities and from any other individuals, groups or institutions that could be perceived as exerting improper or undue influence on the Chief Electoral Officer's decision making.

While the Chief Electoral Officer may consult and receive input from interested entities, decisions are based on the mandate of the agency, the law and the principles of electoral integrity.

Principle: Reliability

A reliable electoral administration is one where the administrative and regulatory functions are carried out predictably and consistently, election officials and staff act professionally and comply with the law, and elections are delivered according to sound management principles, all so that Canadians can trust elections and election results.

Objective Examples of how Elections Canada helps achieve this objective

Election officials perform their duties professionally

Elections Canada officials conduct their work competently and with professionalism so that Canadians have confidence in the agency, in the electoral process and in the results it delivers.

Election officials are equipped with the right set of skills, tools and training to conduct their work professionally.

We design our processes, systems and tools to include controls that optimize compliance with the CEA.

We regularly evaluate our manuals, forms and training practices and materials to ensure their usability and effectiveness, and we conduct testing and reviews to maximize procedural compliance.

The administration and regulation of the electoral process, including the political financing regime, are predictable and consistent

We provide consistent interpretations of the CEA — communicated to regulated political entities through a standardized consultation process that produces opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes — enabling all regulated political entities to understand their obligations under the CEA. 

To deliver consistent and equitable service, the work of returning officers, their staff and election officers is standardized across the country using defined processes. 

Elections are administered according to sound management principles

We carefully manage human, financial and material resources to effectively and efficiently deliver on our commitments.

The agency invests in sound management to build a sustainable organization, and is a responsible and accountable steward of public funds.

We consider internationally recognized best practices in electoral administration, make decisions based on evidence and document those decisions.

We conduct program reviews, measure performance and take steps to improve processes, systems and tools, when there is opportunity to do so.

The electoral process delivers accurate and timely results

We design and test our programs, processes and systems to ensure that the electoral process delivers accurate results in a timely manner.

Through policies, directives and instructions to returning officers and election officers, we outline how ballots must be secured, controlled, counted and stored.

We design effective processes to compile and report on results, and we publish authoritative and reliable election results that Canadians can trust.

Elections Canada protects the personal information it holds about Canadians for the purpose of participating in the electoral process

We take seriously the protection of Canadians' personal information. We adopt best practices in the management of personal information to ensure that Canadians feel confident when providing personal information for the purpose of participating in the electoral process.

To further protect privacy, we offer guidance to regulated political entities about safeguarding the information they hold, work with the Privacy Commissioner, conduct privacy impact assessments, and identify and mitigate any breaches of the confidentiality of personal information.

Principle: Security

A secure electoral process is designed and administered to protect it against persons or entities who would attempt to interfere with its processes, people, assets or data. A secure electoral process requires safeguards to prevent, detect, mitigate and penalize election offences and other interference.

Objective Examples of how Elections Canada helps achieve this objective

The ballot is secret

We take precautions to prevent marked ballots from being associated to specific electors so that electors are free to vote for their preferred candidate without interference.

Any suspected breaches of the secrecy of the ballot are referred to the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

Only Canadian citizens who are 18 years of age or older on polling day and who reside in the electoral district (“eligible electors”) vote, and vote only once

We provide information and guidance to inform the public about who is eligible to vote and to specify that an elector may vote only once in each election.

We design and test our processes and systems to help ensure that fraudulent voting is detected and prevented. When questions arise about whether a ballot may have been cast by a person who is not an eligible elector, or where someone appears to have voted twice, we refer the matter to the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

Threats to electoral integrity are systematically monitored, assessed and mitigated throughout the electoral cycle

We adopt a risk-based approach to election administration. We implement integrity and security by design, introducing controls and safeguards to help mitigate risks.

We continually study, assess and manage risks to electoral integrity and security, whether they are in the cyber, informational or physical realm. We note trends in the threat landscape and developments in other jurisdictions, and study best practices.

We monitor for risk occurrences, incidents and patterns, and share information on what we are seeing with agency staff and field administrators. When incidents or concerning trends are detected, Elections Canada staff and field administrators collaborate to respond in an effective and coordinated manner. In addition, we work with federal government departments and agencies that have mandates to support electoral security and safeguard Elections Canada's systems and assets, and refer potential offences to the appropriate entity.

We provide cybersecurity training to personnel to increase their awareness of, and resilience to potential cyber threats.

Compliance and enforcement of the CEA is enabled

We answer questions and provide guidance to political entities in relation to the political financing provisions of the CEA. We conduct compliance audits of financial returns submitted by political entities and communicate with them to ensure compliance is achieved. We refer matters to the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections in a timely manner when potential violations of the CEA have been identified.

We preserve and verify all required documentation in the administration of the political party registration regime in order to protect the integrity of the regime and ensure that only parties that are qualified to do so can access the benefits granted to them by the CEA.

We recognize that investigation and enforcement activities deter and respond to instances of alleged electoral interference. To facilitate enforcement activities by the Commissioner of Canada Elections, returning officers and election officers strive to produce accurate election records. Elections Canada ensures that relevant documents are available in full and in a timely manner, and that they are sufficiently clear and complete to resolve disputes about election results. We also undertake analysis to support these activities.

The application of technology to electoral administration is prudent

To meet the needs and expectations of electors and regulated political entities, we offer some technology-enabled services. We ensure that these are robust, secure against potential interference, and that they protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data.

We adopt a prudent approach to deploying information technology, including as it relates to registration, voting, results reporting and communications with electors.

Principle: Transparency

A transparent electoral process is administered and regulated in a manner such that it is observable, features oversight and is described in detail publicly.

Objective Examples of how Elections Canada helps achieve this objective

The electoral process is observable and features oversight

We facilitate meaningful observation of the electoral process by ensuring that the environment is conducive to observation, notably by partisan scrutineers.

The Chief Electoral Officer authorizes observation by national and international independent observers.

We design our processes, systems and tools to enable oversight. Election officers' work is overseen by fellow election officers and supervisors.

We ensure that the independent auditors have access to election officer training sessions and polling places so they can measure election officers' compliance with procedures in accordance with the mandatory audit, the results of which are posted on the Elections Canada website.

Canadians have access to reliable information required to understand and assess the integrity of the electoral process and to facilitate accountability

We communicate transparently about:

  • Administrative measures: We make public the regulatory policies and other administrative measures that guide our election officials in the administration of the election.
  • Voting and counting processes: We thoroughly document steps in the voting and vote-counting processes and make this documentation publicly available. We design training and procedural documents with usability in mind. We retain important records of voting proceedings so that documentation can be audited or used in legal proceedings.
  • Election results: We set realistic expectations about when preliminary and official results will be available and explain to the public and media where to find the authoritative results.
  • Political financing: We publish lists and databases of regulated political entities and their financial transaction returns.
  • Outcomes: As an independent agency, we transparently report to Parliament and other stakeholders about our operations and operational outcomes.
  • Data: We aim to be a source of reliable data that is accessible to Canadians.