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National Register of Electors - Updates: November 2020 Annual Lists of Electors

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Introduction

In accordance with the Canada Elections Act, Elections Canada provides lists of electors (containing name, address and unique identifier) to members of Parliament by November 15 of each year and, upon request, to each federal registered party for any electoral district in which the party endorsed a candidate in the last general election or by-election.

This document provides an overview of the primary sources of information used to update the National Register of Electors as well as information on the quality of the lists.

Overview

The data extracted for the above purpose reflect updates to the National Register of Electors (the Register) made on the basis of information obtained from federal, provincial, territorial and municipal administrative sources; lists of electors provided by other electoral agencies; and electors through the Online Voter Registration Service of Elections Canada. Since the 43rd general election (held on October 21, 2019) some 351,000 new electors were added to the Register. The majority (304,000) were electors aged between 18 and 24 years old. Records for some 281,000 deceased electors were removed from the Register, and 21,000 duplicate records were removed from the lists of electors. In addition, address changes were made for nearly 2.6 million electors who moved. The current lists also reflect improvements made to address information.

The November 2020 annual lists of electors contain 96 percent of the 27.6 million eligible electors (see Table 1). The percentage of eligible electors registered at their current residential address is 89.2 percent, or 24.6 million eligible electors. Among registered electors, 92.9 percent are listed at their current residential address.

It should be noted that all estimates presented in this document are preliminary. Elections Canada mandated Statistics Canada to review and measure the main aspects of the quality information of the lists of electors. As such, final quality estimates for the November 2020 annual lists of electors and the final lists of electors for the 43rd general election will be available in January 2021. More information regarding this quality review initiative can be found in section 3.5 Reliability of Quality Estimates.

Table 1. Registered and Eligible Electors and Preliminary Quality Estimates November 2020 Annual Lists of Electors and Final Lists of Electors for the 43rd General Election of 2019
  November 2020 Annual lists of electors Final lists of electors for the 43rd general election of 2019
Registered electors 27,137,533 27,126,729
Eligible electorsFootnote 1 27,597,148 27,347,873
Coverage (%)Footnote 2 96.0 96.9
Currency (%) 89.2 91.6
Accuracy (%) 92.9 94.5

Footnote 1 The electoral population is estimated using information from the 2016 Census of Population and National Household Survey, adjusted for census net undercoverage, as well as demographic components of growth.

Footnote 2 The coverage for 2020 was adjusted from 98.3 percent to 96 percent to account for deceased electors, duplicates and non-Canadian citizens. This adjustment is similar to that made in previous years. Currency and accuracy were also adjusted, accordingly.

1. Background

The National Register of Electors (the Register) is a database of Canadians who are qualified to vote in federal elections. The Register contains the name, gender, date of birth, address and unique identifier of each elector.

Elections Canada uses the information in the Register to produce preliminary lists of electors for federal elections, by-elections and referendums, and to provide lists to members of Parliament and, on request, to registered political parties by November 15 of each year. The Canada Elections Act also allows Elections Canada to provide Register data to other jurisdictions (provinces, territories, and some municipalities) for electoral purposes, where data-sharing agreements have been signed.

2. Updating

According to Statistics Canada, some 14 percent of elector information changes every year. These changes involve moves (11 percent), new 18-year-olds (2 percent), new citizens (less than 1 percent) and deaths (1 percent). To reflect these demographic changes, the National Register of Electors (the Register) is regularly updated using federal, provincial, territorial and some municipal administrative data sources. It may also be updated using electoral lists from other jurisdictions. Revisions made to lists of electors during federal elections are another important source of Register updates. Since the October 2019 general election, the Register has been updated using the following sources and data:

  1. Canada Revenue Agency: This source provided the name, address and date of birth of tax filers who indicated that they are 18 years old, Canadian citizens and consented to their information being provided to Elections Canada. Generally, around 82 percent of tax filers gave consent on their T1 tax returns.
  2. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC): This source provided the name, address, date of birth, gender and date of citizenship conferral of new Canadians who consented to their information being provided to Elections Canada once their citizenship was granted. Generally, around 96 percent of new citizens consent to this transfer. In addition, Elections Canada receives periodic information from IRCC regarding permanent residents and foreign nationals, which allows Elections Canada to cross-check against the information in the Register.
  3. Department of National Defence: This source provided the name, gender, date of birth, service number and address of Canadian Armed Forces electors to update the Register.
  4. Provincial and territorial motor vehicle agencies: These sources provided driver information from each province and territory, except Quebec, and identification card information from some provinces and territories. For Quebec, elector updates are obtained through that province's permanent voters lists.
  5. Provincial and territorial vital statistics agencies: These sources provided information on deceased persons from each province and territory, except Quebec. For Quebec, deceased electors' information is obtained through that province's permanent voters lists. The Canada Revenue Agency and provincial and territorial motor vehicle agencies also provide information on deceased persons.
  6. Provincial and territorial electoral lists: These sources included elector information from the permanent voters lists maintained by Élections Québec along with lists of electors received from the provincial and territorial elections held in 2019 in Alberta, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories.
  7. Elector-initiated updates: This data is from requests from electors to have their information updated or added to the Register in addition to requests to opt out of the Register entirely or out of sharing their information with other jurisdictions. Since the establishment of the Register in 1997, there have been some 7,500 requests to opt out of the Register entirely and some 170 requests to opt out of sharing with other jurisdictions. The electors who have requested to opt out entirely do not appear on the November 2020 annual lists of electors. Since the October 2019 general election, 15,131 changes of address and 1,369 registration requests were submitted through the Online Voter Registration Service, while 939 registration/update requests were submitted through paper forms.
  8. Removal of duplicates: Regular verifications are made to identify and remove duplicates (individuals for whom more than one record is found) from the Register. Since the October 2019 general election, some 21,000 records were identified as duplicates and were removed from the lists.

3. Quality

The main indicators used to measure the quality of information in the National Register of Electors (the Register) are coverage, currency and accuracy. These indicators are described below along with the corresponding estimates for the November 2020 annual lists of electors. Refer to section 3.4 for information on how to interpret these measures.

3.1 Coverage

The percentage of electors included in the Register (coverage) is one of the key indicators used to measure the extent to which Canadians can exercise their democratic right to vote. As of April 2019, the national coverage target was increased from 92 to 94 percent. Therefore, the quality of the November 2020 annual lists of electors has been assessed against this new target.

Coverage measurements involve determining what proportion of the population is represented on the lists. This entails comparing the number of electors on the lists with an estimate of the total number of Canadian citizens aged 18 and over. This makes it possible for Elections Canada to assess the quality of the Register relative to its national voter registration target of 94 percent.

Elections Canada prepares estimates of qualified electors based on information provided by Statistics Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. A demographic component approach is used to derive estimates at the electoral district level using detailed information on new adults, deceased electors, new citizens, electors who move between electoral districts and electors leaving the country permanently. This information is used to estimate demographic changes. The sum of the electoral district estimates provides provincial/territorial and national estimates.

Coverage estimates for Canada and the provinces and territories are shown in Chart 1 and Table 2 (below). A comparison of estimates of registered electors with estimates of qualified electors indicates that the November 2020 annual lists include some 96 percent of electors—which is higher than the established Elections Canada target of 94 percent.

Some 23,000 electors do not appear on the lists because their address has not yet been assigned to an electoral district and polling division.

Coverage may vary by region because of various factors:

  • Demographic changes;
  • Availability of data sources used to update the Register;
  • Rates of consent to share information;
  • Information for some people does not appear in any administrative files used for updating purposes;
  • Some records cannot be positively matched with information held in the Register;
  • Time between the occurrence of demographic changes and the reception and processing of information by Elections Canada.

The coverage of lists of electors in all provinces are above the national target of 94 percent. Among the territories, Yukon has a coverage just below the national target. Higher demographic growth partly explains the lower coverage of the lists in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Chart 1. Coverage Estimates, Canada, Provinces and Territories, November 2020 Annual Lists of Electors

Chart 1. Coverage Estimates Text version of "Chart 1. Coverage Estimates, Canada, Provinces and Territories, November 2020 Annual Lists of Electors"

Registration of young electors poses additional challenges as the information from administrative sources may be available to Elections Canada only several months after they have reached the eligibility age. Initiatives involving feeder groups (future electors under 18 years of age) are under way, which should help reduce the coverage gap for young electors over time (see section 4.1 below).

Chart 2 illustrates that the gap between registered electors and eligible electors decreases steadily with age. Electors who have recently become eligible to vote (18-year-olds) represent the largest gap with only 132,000 registrations out of the 366,000 newly eligible electors. The gap decreases considerably for 19-year-olds (271,000 registrations out of 373,000 eligible electors) and continues to decrease up to the age of 37. After that age, the Register contains information for nearly all eligible electors.

Chart 2. Registered and Eligible ElectorsFootnote 1 by AgeFootnote 2,3,4, Canada, November 2020 Annual Lists of Electors, in thousands

Chart 2. Registered and Eligible Electors by Age, Canada, November 2020 Annual Lists of Electors, in thousands

Footnote 1 Based on counts from Statistics Canada (2016 Census of Population, adjusted for census net undercoverage and demographic growth). Eligible electors are Canadian citizens aged 18 and over.

Footnote 2 Source: National Register of Electors (NROE).

Footnote 3 The NROE contains a small number of deceased electors, non-citizens and duplicate records. This explains why the number of registered electors is slightly greater than the number of eligible electors at some ages.

Footnote 4 Persons aged 100 and over are excluded from the chart.

Text version of "Chart 2. Registered and Eligible Electors by Age, Canada, November 2020 Annual Lists of Electors, in thousands"

3.2 Currency

The second measure of the quality of the lists is the currency of electors' addresses. Measuring the currency of the lists comes down to answering the following question: "What proportion of eligible electors are registered at their current address?"

The currency of lists is estimated by comparing the number of updates made to electors' addresses in the Register with the estimated number of moves in each region of the country based on mobility rates provided by Statistics Canada. Updating addresses presents a number of challenges. In addition to the factors listed above, the high number of moves and the variations by region could also explain differences in currency. That is why the national currency target of 80 percent is set lower than the coverage target.

Currency estimates for Canada, the provinces and territories are provided in Table 2 below. Eligible electors across the country are registered at their current address at a rate of 89.2 percent. The currency rate of lists is above 80 percent (the national target) in all provinces. The currency rate of the three territories is lower than the national target, which is partly explained by the lower coverage and higher mobility rate. Various measures are put in place locally at election time to improve these lists.

3.3 Accuracy

Accuracy of the electoral lists is derived by dividing the currency estimates by the coverage estimates. It represents the proportion of registered electors listed at their current residential address. In other words, it answers the question, "What proportion of electors on the lists is at their current residential address?"

Whereas currency indicates the proportion of eligible electors registered at their current address, accuracy measures the proportion of registered electors listed at their current address. Refer to section 3.4 for information on how to interpret these measures.

Among electors appearing on the November 2020 annual lists of electors, it is estimated that 92.9 percent of the electors on the lists have current residential address information. In all provinces, except Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Alberta and in the territories, over nine registered electors out of 10 are listed at their current address.

Table 2. Estimated Percentages of Coverage, Currency and AccuracyFootnote 1, Canada, Provinces and Territories, November 2020 Annual Lists of Electors
  Coverage (national target 94%) Currency (national target 80%) Accuracy
Canada 96.0 89.2 92.9
Newfoundland and Labrador 95.3 82.2 86.3
Prince Edward Island 96.1 83.7 87.1
Nova Scotia 98.3 89.6 91.1
New Brunswick 97.9 90.0 92.0
Quebec 97.0 93.8 96.7
Ontario 96.0 89.8 93.6
Manitoba 94.5 85.2 90.1
Saskatchewan 94.7 86.0 90.8
Alberta 94.6 84.5 89.3
British Columbia 95.4 86.3 90.5
Yukon 93.6 61.8 66.0
Northwest Territories 91.3 56.6 62.0
Nunavut 75.5 67.6 89.6

Footnote 1 The estimates are adjusted for deceased electors, duplicates and non-Canadian citizens. The quality estimates are subject to sampling errors. See section 3.5, Reliability of Quality Estimates.

3.4 Interpretation

To better understand the practical impact of the quality indicators of the lists, it is important to consider how the data is used in a federal election, by-elections or referendums. Shortly after an election is called, Voter Information Cards (VICs) are mailed to electors appearing on the Preliminary Lists of Electors that are extracted from the Register. More than nine out of ten registered electors will receive VICs addressed to them that correctly indicate where they can vote in their electoral district (accuracy).

During an election, returning officers provide candidates with a Statement of Quality of the Preliminary Lists of Electors. This document provides quality measures and estimated revision volumes for their electoral district. For example, lower currency estimates may result in a higher number of revisions or polling day registrations. The document also contains counts that reflect recent activities performed to improve the lists as well as targeted revision plans. The Chief Electoral Officer instructs each returning officer to discuss list quality issues with candidates during the candidates' briefing meeting, which must be held shortly after all candidates have been confirmed. Candidates are encouraged to raise questions and issues concerning the revision process and to advise the returning officer if they believe areas of the electoral district could benefit from additional targeted revision efforts.

3.5 Reliability of Quality Estimates

Elections Canada conducted the fifth iteration of its national Data Quality Confirmation Study (DQCS) in 2018. Previous studies took place in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2014. Another study is currently underway. The purpose of the study is to provide an independent assessment of the quality indicators of lists.

In the past, Elections Canada used conventional surveys to conduct these types of studies. After sampling elector records from the Register, these electors were contacted and asked to confirm their personal information. As it was becoming more and more difficult to reach electors, the chosen approach since 2018 involves a partnership with Statistics Canada and a shift from a survey-based approach to a record linkage one. Records from the Register are matched with various complete and reliable data sources held by the statistics agency. This results in a more comprehensive evaluation, reduced costs and improved quality indicators. The 2018 results serve as the baseline to produce the quality indicators for the November 2020 annual lists of electors that are included in this document.

As mentioned in the Overview section, results from the 2020 DQCS will be used to produce the final quality estimates for the November 2020 annual lists of electors and the final lists of electors for the 43rd general election. These estimates will be available in January 2021.

4. Future Plans

4.1 Register of Future Electors

As a result of Bill C-76, known as the Elections Modernization Act, the Register of Future Electors (ROFE) was established on April 1, 2019. The ROFE contains information (name, date of birth, gender, address, and unique identifier) about young Canadian citizens who are between 14 and 17 years of age and who consented to register with Elections Canada. Upon turning 18, eligible individuals can be added to the National Register of Electors (the Register) to update the lists of electors for federal elections and referendums.

Elections Canada’s data sharing agreement with the Canada Revenue Agency was updated in February 2020 to allow for the provision of information from Canadian tax filers aged between 14 and 17 years old who consent to be included in the ROFE. Elections Canada will continue to work with its provincial, territorial and federal electoral partners and data suppliers in order to update its information-sharing agreements whenever possible; such updates would enable Elections Canada to obtain information on youth and, thereby, continue to maintain the ROFE. Future electors can also request to be added to the ROFE. Future electors can also request to be added to the ROFE. All of this data from various sources will allow Elections Canada over time to add new electors and increase youth coverage in the Register.

5. Conclusion

Elections Canada estimates that the November 2020 annual lists of electors derived from the National Register of Electors (the Register) include around 96 percent of the 27.6 million eligible electors and that 89.2 percent of the eligible electors are registered at their current residential address. The proportion of registered electors listed at their current residential address is estimated at 92.9 percent.

Although national estimates are above the national targets, it is important that electors and political entities understand that Register activities continue throughout the year and that revision procedures are essential to maintaining this level of quality.

It is ultimately up to electors to verify with Elections Canada that they are registered and that their information is up to date.