open Secondary menu

Compliance Review: Final Report and Recommendations

Causes of Non-Compliance


To most Canadians, the federal voting process appears simple and straightforward. About 85 percent exercise their franchise through a "regular" voting procedure, free from administrative obstacles. They often find they can complete the voting process at a polling station in three minutes or less.

These are voters who:

  • are registered in advance;
  • have a driver's licence or equivalent photo ID to verify their name and address;
  • bring the personalized "voter information card" that Elections Canada mails to them; and
  • go to their specific assigned voting location on Election Day.

Unfortunately, the remaining 15 percent of voters do not experience such speed, simplicity or streamlined administration. Footnote 12

For one or more reasons, these voters comprise a wide range of "exception" cases that require election officers to administer special processes before they can issue a ballot. It is during these more complex procedures — registration, vouching, oaths, translation assistance, eligibility challenges, et ceteraFootnote 13 — that election officers often err. Too frequently, the errors are so serious that the courts would judge them to be "irregularities" that violate the legal provisions that establish an elector's entitlement to vote.

The procedures that poll staff must apply as they manage many different "exception" cases on Election Day are complex, cumbersome to administer, often time-consuming, and procedurally frustrating for voters. Legislation prescribes these methods, including what tasks are required and who must undertake them.

Written instructions that election officers and voters must follow to complete these complex procedures, such as instruction manuals and forms, are generally not user-friendly. They can be exceedingly difficult to follow. To a great extent they mirror the Act's highly prescriptive language, which tends to be more legalistic than practical when describing exact procedures to follow.

Complex procedures, exacerbated by no less complex written instructions, are major contributors to errors by election staff, who must administer the safeguard requirements, and by voters, who must demonstrate that they meet those requirements. All groups and individuals consulted in this review identified complexity as a significant, if not the most significant, cause of non-compliance with Election Day procedures. Evidence obtained in detailed audits undertaken during the compliance reviewFootnote 14 supports this view.

It is especially likely that complexity will result in errors during elections, where most staff are hired only once every few years and must follow very particular instructions. Administering election procedures simply cannot require the vast majority of election officers to master very complex tasks that are difficult to understand — after all, this is only a one-day job. However, it is precisely this requirement that has gradually evolved into being under current legislative arrangements. The result is that important parts of the job have become difficult to understand and challenging to administer.

At present all election officers who hold the two key positions per ballot box —the Deputy Returning Officer and the Poll Clerk —are required to know how to deal with every type of "exception" case. Previous rounds of amendment to electoral legislation have resulted in a snowballing accumulation of dutiesFootnote 15 where additional requirements, such as proof of identity and address, are expected to be delivered within the existing "polling division" service model. The structure of election officer responsibilities set out in the existing model creates unnecessary complexity for both voters and election officers. Procedural compliance may be compromised in the resulting environment of:

  • Frustrated voters — waiting in an assigned queue yet unable to be served by apparently unoccupied staff at one or more neighbouring polling stations; or having to 'tell their story' a number of times to different staff, each of whom is limited in law to handle only a part of each voter's case; and
  • Frustrated voting staff — guided by unclear or inconsistent instructions to record information that has already been captured multiple times, often by another election official at the same voting location.

With the advantage of hindsight, it is evident that numerous changes to legislation during past years have contributed to a cumulative level of complexity that cannot be accommodated within the existing voting services model without causing intolerable levels of error.


The Canada Elections Act is deeply rooted in an historic approach to voting administration that originally developed in 19th Century England. As a result, legislated provisions regarding supervision of voting site activities are mostly notable by their absence.

Canada's constitutional and legislative framework provides that the country be divided into electoral districts as the basis of representation. Each district must be further sub-divided into polling divisionsFootnote 16 for purposes of election administration. It is clear that there must be at least one pair of election officers assigned to administer the vote for each polling division – a Deputy Returning Officer and a Poll Clerk.

The Canada Elections Act now, and in every version since Confederation, assumes that these two election officers will conduct their duties autonomously, in full compliance with the election statute. It assumes that election officers will follow directives given to them by their Returning Officer (who transmits them from the Chief Electoral Officer), and will faithfully and accurately count and report voting results for their polling division after voting closes on Election Day.

Under the current model, each Deputy Returning Officer must "return" the marked ballots and all voting documentation to their Returning Officer. Each Returning Officer must "return" their Writ of Election, (on which the voting results are recorded) and all voting documentation for their district to the Chief Electoral Officer. The Chief Electoral Officer then communicates these returns as the official election results, which formally determine duly elected Members of Parliament following each general election.

This model of delegated, massively-decentralized responsibility was well suited to simple election rules in a large, mostly rural country, as Canada was at Confederation. Early in the country's history a "poll" was the location in a rural community where the voters within a defined area could vote on Election Day. Often this was where the Deputy Returning Officer worked or lived. Even in cities, each poll would provide its own location where voting occurred on Election Day — and again, often this was the living room of one of the two assigned election officers.

However, as the country urbanized, and motorized, the practical, obvious efficiencies of electors from multiple polling divisions being able to vote at a single location led to "central polls". It made good sense to place multiple "polling stations" – one ballot box and pair of officials per polling division – at a single "polling place" location such as a community centre, church hall or other convenient public building.

Only in recent decades have requirements for supervising voting sites, and the need for additional officers to help administer registration and voting at central polls, been recognized in the Canada Elections Act. Section 124 (2) of the Act gives a Returning Officer discretion to appoint a "Central Poll Supervisor" at a central polling place with four or more polling stations – it assumes that no supervision is necessary at polling locations housing fewer than four polling stations.

Section 124(2) further states that a supervisor must "supervise proceedings and keep the returning officer informed" about any matters that affect proceedings. The Act however gives no actual authority to a Central Poll Supervisor to monitor, instruct, intervene or correct any actions of Deputy Returning Officers and Poll Clerks at polling stations within a voting site. Their formal role mandates them to do little more than ensure adequate voting supplies are available, deal with traffic flow, and ensure proper signage and parking arrangements.

The manner in which staff roles and polling station structures are provided for within the current legislative framework reflects a primary concern for safeguarding the impartiality of proceedings at a local level. The Act envisages partisan election officers paired together at every ballot box, keeping a watchful eye on one another, preventing foul play. Evolving complexity has, however, created a further concern; that procedures are administered accurately. Simply pairing off partisan officers, with no appointed supervisor with a clear mandate to supervise proceedings, does not ensure the tasks will be executed correctly.

Deputy Returning Officers and Poll Clerks who are unclear about how to handle complicated "exception" cases will make errors. Going unchecked, they are likely to continue repeating those errors throughout the day. Audit evidence indicates that unresolved errors continue throughout Election Day, even when a Central Poll Supervisor is present at the voting location. Because the Act does not properly define a chain-of-command, problems and disputes have nowhere to be escalated. Deputy Returning Officers must make procedural decisions "on the fly" under pressure of an ever-growing line of electors who must wait as each lengthy "exception" process is administered.

Participants in the compliance review regularly commented that there is an absence of clear and meaningful supervision within the current legislative framework. The legal and societal importance of procedures related to voting and registration-at-the-time-of-voting, demands that election officer activities must be appropriately, uniformly and consistently supervised.


Recruiting an appropriately skilled workforce of more than 230,000 temporary workers at each federal election is a mammoth challenge by any measure. Election Officers, who are assigned to work at voting sites, make up 200,000 of these positions.

Achieving this within current constraints of the Canada Elections Act is additionally challenging for two major reasons.

First, recruiting Election Officers for Election Day involves each Returning Officer finding between 600 and 800 capable persons in their electoral district. These persons must be willing to work a 14 to 16-hour day, on a Monday, which is a regular work day for most citizens. They must be willing to work for a fixed fee that is close to or less than the minimum wage set by the province or territory where they live.Footnote 17 The stipulation that all voting must halt at a polling station if an election officer is absentFootnote 18 permits no meal or other breaks. Clearly these work conditions and compensation levels are not likely to attract large numbers of appropriately skilled persons for a one-day job.

Second, the Act requires that candidates for the political parties that placed first and second in the most recent election in each district must be permitted to nominate all the Deputy Returning Officers (Section 34) and all the Poll Clerks (Section 35) respectively. A similar provision exists for nominating Registration Officers (Section 39). Candidates representing the two leading parties have until the 17th day before Election Day to assemble their list of nominees. Each Returning Officer must therefore wait until this statutory deadline passes before addressing whatever recruiting shortfalls remain. Amplifying this problem is the fact that candidate nominations generated only 29 percent of the polling station officers appointed in the most recent federal general election. Being barred from recruiting election officers required to fill all places until just over two weeks before Election Day, and one week before Advance Voting, creates a significant barrier to succeeding at orderly hiring and training of qualified personnel.

The entire concept of pairing partisan election officers at each polling station "to make sure things are done right" quite naturally becomes ineffective unless each campaign nominates enough officers. Additionally, a vast majority of Compliance Review participants strongly believed that appointing election officers on any basis other than merit is inconsistent with the principle of administrative neutrality, and contrary to predominant Canadian values. Some suggested the appointment of partisan election officers is also inconsistent with established international electoral practices.Footnote 19

Beyond the need to address these statutory constraints, there are opportunities to improve the recruitment process at an administrative level. The Compliance Review process has repeatedly made clear that many of the citizens who make themselves available to work as election officers in federal elections also hold similar positions in provincial/territorial and local government elections. Many of these individuals are highly altruistic in outlook, and show themselves to be more interested in serving the democratic process and providing a public service than in working for a wage. Some have worked in many elections and understand well the overarching democratic principles they follow, the time required for different procedures to be done correctly, and the intricacies of dealing with various "exception" processes.

Historically, there has been no concerted effort to recognize and value the contribution of these essential election workers, nor to deliberately grow and improve the quality of their ranks. At each government election level, these individuals must apply anew for a position as an election officer and only after each electoral event officially begins. They must attend the same training session as those who have never performed in the role before. Their experience goes unrecognized in the compensation model, and in any kind of orderly progression through increased responsibility in subsequent elections. Finally, these workers have no communication of any kind between elections to advise them when another election employment opportunity might arise (most Canadian jurisdictions now have fixed election dates), what rule changes they might be expected to administer at the next election, or even whether their contact information is up-to-date to allow orderly hiring when an election nears.

There is an opportunity for Canadian election management bodies, at least at the federal and provincial/territorial levels, to collaborate to establish an "electoral worker database" of information about citizens with election officer experience who are willing, interested and capable of performing official duties in subsequent elections. Managing this cadre of experienced personnel would benefit from use of the same kinds of motivational communication techniques that highly successful volunteer organizations use. Ideally, more young election workers would be recruited and made to feel that they are truly valued and that their work at successive elections is personally rewarding, enjoyable and something to look forward to. Engaging municipal and provincial election bodies to help develop and maintain a repository of known, capable and experienced election workers would add administrative complexity, but such a shared information resource has the potential to pay back even greater value. Over time, it could be useful to explore the concept of 'certified' election workers, and to start to create a level of professionalism within this important, but periodic and highly temporary workforce.

Improved recruitment strategies of the type outlined above should attract more than the minimum required number of skilled and qualified election officers to work at voting sites each Election Day. Having capable, experienced human resources in place is essential for achieving high levels of compliance with complex election rules and administrative procedures.


All participants in the compliance review, including senior members of Elections Canada management, fully agree that training election officers effectively is absolutely critical to achieving compliance with election rules and procedures.

Elections Canada managers also concede that existing arrangements for training election officers have proven inadequate. For years, the approach has been for each Returning Officer to select several Training Officers to teach courses to nominated and recruited election officers, by role, in the two-weeks prior to Election Day. These courses generally run at the office of the Returning Officer on evenings and weekends. Frequently training as many as 60 officers at the same time, the Training Officer primarily works through an overview of a detailed procedures manual handed out at the start of the class. In addition to being trained on procedures, election officers must also learn about expectations regarding their interaction with the voting public, including assisting voters with disabilities and understanding official language requirements. Election officers are asked to take the manual home, review it, and have it on-hand to refer to on Election Day. A flat fee is paid to attend the mandatory training session; no additional compensation is paid to read the manual.

Efforts are now underway within Elections Canada to completely update this approach and modernize the training regimen. Until 2011, time simply was not available for any such large-scale overhaul of the education program used to train more than 200,000 temporary officers at every election. Successive minority governments between 2004 and 2011 kept the organization's primary focus on "readiness", not modernization. At the same time, legislative amendments were introduced that added significant levels of procedural complexity to election officer roles.Footnote 20

A great number of criticisms of the training approach arose in workshops with stakeholders during the review. Participants debated "how long" training sessions should be, and "how much" detail there should be on the large number of "exception" conditions that election officers must administer on Election Day. Currently, most election officers receive two-and-a-half to three hours of training. Some roles, such as that of Information Officer, can be trained in a shorter time.

One camp's opinion was that three hours is the absolute longest training time that is reasonable for any election officer assigned a one-day, minimum wage job. Some argued that "information overload" occurs in far less time and said current difficulties recruiting election workers will increase exponentially if training sessions are made longer. It was suggested that far less time could be spent on training, with less resulting confusion, if sessions focused on dealing with typical cases and left dealing with exceptions for learning on-the-job, under guidance from a knowledgeable, well trained poll supervisor. This was met with the argument that supervisors are not even present in many voting locations, and that the current legislation does not envisage already-busy Central Poll Supervisors training others on the job.

Another camp argued that training should take as long as needed to ensure that election officers thoroughly understand every procedural aspect of their official duties before starting work. It was suggested that various training session lengths could be tested, and evaluations of the "student" knowledge levels measured after each. India was cited as an example, where civil servants act as election officers and receive one full week of training prior to Election Day.

Some review participants were emphatic that continuing to conduct classroom training, predominantly by reviewing a thick training manual, is an entirely ineffective and outmoded way to teach adults the detailed procedures they need to know to perform a complex, one-day job. Those with backgrounds in adult learning argued that most persons who are willing to work as election officers do not generally fit the profile of individuals who learn best by listening or reading. They argued that a better approach would be to learn by doing, which comes naturally to most adults.

That very little "experiential" learning is possible while covering a 90-page manual in a three-hour lecture was generally agreed to be a problem.

While debates over approach never led to a consensus, there was wide agreement on three basic learning objectives for election officer training:

  • what it is they are required to do;
  • how they are to perform the tasks required; and
  • why they need to perform those tasks in the way described.

In this light, inadequate or ineffective training carries significant negative implications for procedural compliance.

At the same time, Returning Officers face a major logistical challenge in training 600 to 800 election workers (many with day jobs) in the available two‐and‐a‐half weeks prior to Election Day. Making that training effective, practical and enjoyable adds further difficulty.

Ensuring every election officer has a foundation of knowledge about their duties and legal responsibilities presents is an enormous curriculum development and training arrangement challenge. For the general election of 2015, it is imperative that each election officer be trained on the importance of being able to recognize and prevent "irregularities".

Updating the List of Electors

"A good list makes for a good election".

Election administrators around the globe live by this adage.

A list of voters is accepted as a procedural safeguard and administrative control tool in democracies all over the world. To vote in Canada, electors must be duly registered in the district in which they live, and their name and address must appear on the list at the voting station to which they are assigned to vote before they can be provided a ballot. The list is permitted to be scrutinized by candidates and their representatives, and objection procedures are available to legally disqualify persons who do not meet the required eligibility criteria of citizenship, age and residency. As soon as a voter is provided a ballot, a list "strike-off" procedure occurs to prevent duplicate voting.

Different approaches are used to create and update voters lists, ranging from creating a list by enumerating at every citizen's residence at the start of an election, to leveraging a citizen registry. In Canada, the current approach is to maintain a National Register of Electors (NRoE) and permit new voters to apply to register at any time, including on Election Day. Unlike many countries that maintain a permanent registry, voter registration is non-mandatory in Canada and a citizen can ask to be removed from the register at any time. Nevertheless, Elections Canada estimates that 93.9 percentFootnote 21 of eligible Canadians are currently listed on the National Register of Electors.

The Canada Elections Act uses the "polling division" as a basic conceptual building block around which all detailed voter registration and voting procedures are constructed. There is a historic legal requirement that each participating elector must ultimately have their name appear on the polling division voters list for the specific polling station to which they are assigned to vote. It is important to understand that the Act still requires that there be one polling station that is uniquely established for each polling division. A polling division is a sub-unit of geography within an electoral district; each district has an average of several hundred polling divisions making up the entirety of that district's geography and most polling divisions have 300 – 500 voters registered within their boundaries.

In practical terms, a polling station is simply a table with a ballot box, a polling division voters list, blank ballots, a poll book and two election officers — the Deputy Returning Officer and Poll Clerk — located at the specific voting site that electors living in one or more polling divisions are assigned to attend.

A perfect voters list would have every participating voter registered in advance of Election Day with their details current and accurately recorded on the list. Ideally their name would be spelled exactly the same way as it appears on the identity documents they must produce, and each voter's residential address would reflect identically on the list and the ID they show.

Elections Canada maintains the National Register of Electors centrally, and derives electronic update information from such sources as change of address data from provincial driver's licence files, federal tax files, and formal data exchange arrangements with provincial and territorial electoral agencies that also maintain permanent voter registers. Because these automatic updates do not provide a fully accurate list when an election is called, the agency undertakes a diverse range of list "revision" activities during each federal election period, including door-to-door list registration activities covering some 10 percent of dwellings where mobility is known to be high.

Maintaining address currency is the most significant challenge in managing the National Register of Electors. Elections Canada's regularly measured "currency" of the register data indicates that 85 percent of registered electors are listed at their current address at any given time. Statistics Canada reports that 13 percent of Canadians move annuallyFootnote 22 and there is inevitably a time lag between a residential move and updating tax files, driver's licence files or provincial voters lists to be shared with Elections Canada. In addition, every day, new voters come of age, or gain citizenship while others pass away.

The public policy response to the fact that, regardless of the approach used, it is nearly impossible to make voters lists complete and accurate in advance of Election Day, is to allow qualified electors to register at the time of voting. Elections Canada's official reports indicate that, over the past four general elections, an average of 6.25 percent of voters needed to register at the time of voting.Footnote 23

However, the audit conducted as part of the Compliance Review (summarized in Annex C) found that confusion amongst some staff led to technical non-compliance with registration procedures and resulted in fewer registration documents than were legally required. The actual number of voters that have been required to register on Election Day is now thought to be closer to eight percent of all voters.

The audit highlighted two common and related errors within the subset of voting records where registration was shown to be required: a registration certificate not being completed (6.5 percent of cases), or a certificate not being returned following the election (17.8 percent of cases).

Procedures require that voters who are already registered, but who have moved from one polling division to another, must complete a full registration process. Follow-up investigations, as well as discussion with numerous front-line poll workers administering registration in the by-elections of November 2012, indicate that election officers struggle to understand why a new registration would be required when it is quite evident that the elector they are dealing with is already registered on the national register, but simply not at their current address. Many are under the impression that they simply need to complete a "correction certificate", a form whose actual purpose is to collect information about voters whose situation has not changed but whose details have been recorded incorrectly on the printed list (a misspelled name or a change to a married name, for example) — a very subtle distinction.

Much confusion prevails and temporary election officers openly question the logic of why they can very simply update the registration of a person with a legal name change with a "correction certificate", while they must use far more effort to complete a "registration certificate" to re-register an already registered voter who has only changed addresses. Indeed, 70.7 percent of "registration certificates" collected during the 2011 general election were for citizens who were already registered on the National Register of Electors.

Unfortunately, while the logic of election staff is understandable, it is inconsistent with the legal requirement that corrections can only be made to information about registrants who are already on the voters list printed for the polling division in which they reside. The legal fiction is that the Election Day polling division voters list is either being added to ("registration certificates") or corrected ("correction certificates"). The reality is that the national register is only being added to when there are new first-time registrants; updates occur whenever address and other data differs for existing registrants.

Clearly the entire process for registration at the time of voting requires significant re-engineering. At the moment, it is the largest source of "irregularities" during federal elections – some 11.8 percent of all registration activity on Election Day in May, 2011 showed serious errors, according to the national audit undertaken for this review. That represents 0.9 percent of all votes cast on Election Day in the last federal election. Less abstractly, it equals 114,693 voters potentially having the validity of their votes put in question. For voter registration alone, this is an average of 372 "irregularities" per electoral district.

In addition to clarifying, simplifying and ultimately re-designing the process of registering voters at the time of voting, it would be logical to address ways to substantively improve the quality of the list immediately before the 2015 election. New and innovative approaches toward pre-vote revisions may be available to yield a better version of a "good list" for Election Day.

Historical, Cultural and Jurisdictional Factors

The approach the Canada Elections Act sets out to provide voting services has been used for a very long time.

Some argue that basic concepts have not been reformed since Confederation — additional features have simply been added piecemeal over decades. Others point out that Canada inherited its entire framework of election law from the United Kingdom — British law made Returning Officers responsible for district elections, and Deputy Returning Officers for voting at "polls", in the early 19th century.

Times have changed, yet the basic voting services model has not. Most Canadians now vote in urban settings, at central polling locations that house many polling stations. Meanwhile, electoral law and procedures still reflect an assumption that voting occurs at single station locations in separate rural communities.

Clearly the model is an antique. It could benefit from significant modernization. But many participants in the review were resigned in their belief that further "tweaks" cannot improve the current approach to providing voting services significantly — indications of widespread and serious procedural errors in Etobicoke Centre and the national audit signal unmistakably that an overhaul is urgently required.

However, built-in resistance to changing the mechanics of voting is strong. This is a historically-defined process. It uses terms and requires procedures that are seemingly to be performed in the same way they always have been and always should be. All can agree that this process has served the country well, which makes policy makers and election administrators all the more hesitant to redefine it. Alternate approaches seem to present enormous transition difficulties, with associated costs and risks, especially when another election always seems to be just around the corner. And the challenge of defining a new voting service model with all the formal, intricate, highly evolved — even elegant — electoral integrity components that the current system embodies is conceptually daunting. For these good reasons and others, the challenged and challenging "polling division" model continues in active use in nearly every province and territory in the country.

With this historically obsolete voting services model come a number of related cultural factors with implications for compliance.

The cultural and demographic attributes associated with persons who are available to work as election officers for a federal election ("elections held on Mondays") tend to be the same for provincial, territorial and local government elections.

No verified statistics are available, but it appears that a significant majority of election workers serve at more than one jurisdictional level. Footnote 24 Differences in procedures and legal requirements between jurisdictions may cause compliance problems. Some Canadian jurisdictions do not require showing any identity documents whatsoever before voting; others allow different types of documents to be used as proof of identity and address. Some authorities completely disallow vouching; others allow a single individual to vouch for an unlimited number of voters. Required periods of residency differ from one election to another; local governments will frequently allow persons who own property to vote even if they don't reside in the area. Detailed lists of differences go on and on.Footnote 25

It is understandable how election officers, who work at each jurisdictional level only once every few years, might confuse procedures. Sometimes they are known to apply the wrong rule schema, creating unintentional non-compliance. Most of these workers assume — reasonably perhaps, but incorrectly — that election law in Canada is uniform. It is not. Each jurisdiction sets out its own specific procedural requirements with surprisingly large differences in the detailed legal prescriptions that apply.

Another societal factor, associated with current voting arrangements across Canada, is the existence of what some call a "culture of service". This ethos can lead members of the public, who temporarily become election officers, to do everything they possibly can to ensure that every person who shows up to vote gets a ballot to mark.

This approach sometimes results in non-compliant voting, for example when an elderly person turns up to vote at a location other than the one to which they are legally assigned. Or perhaps a ballot is issued to someone lacking proper identity documents, because an election officer recognizes them and feels quite sure they are qualified to vote. Another known example is when members of Canadian Forces personnel in uniform go to vote at civilian polling stations and are provided ballots — separate legal rules and arrangements for voting by Canadian Forces electors make such votes technically non-compliant.

Finally, there is a set of cultural expectations around Election Day itself. When members of the public go to cast their ballots, they expect efficient and orderly service. They don't want to wait in line for what they consider an unreasonable time. They expect the location where they are assigned to vote to be convenient, and they tend to have little patience with the "bureaucratic process" associated with obtaining a ballot. After all, everyone knows that voting is a fundamental right. When these expectations go unmet, electors can become rude and impatient with election officers. This combination of expectations can create an environment of stress that leads election officers to take shortcuts and make procedural errors.

The factors that underlie election officer non-compliance are numerous, deeply rooted and sometimes hard to detect. They are unquestionably difficult to manage within the current legal framework.

Footnote 12 For a detailed description of the 17 types of "exception" processes, and the rates of their administrative occurrence, see pages 8–13 of the Compliance Review – Interim Report. Available online at:

Footnote 13 See Annex B for a visual representation of the procedural complexity associated with administering "regular" voting procedures alongside these "exception" conditions.

Footnote 14 See Annex C for summary results of audits taken from four different elections. Identity vouching procedures are unquestionably the most complex "exception" process administered at polling stations. The level of irregularities for vouching averaged 25 percent. During two of these elections, quality assurance programs involving Onsite Conformity Advisors (OCAs) were applied. However, vouching irregularities still averaged 21 percent during the OCA monitored elections. This indicates that overly complex procedures cannot be remedied simply by improved quality assurance.

Footnote 15 An analysis of how these duties progressively accumulated over time is detailed in the paper 'The Evolution of the Duties to be Fulfilled by Poll Staff with Regards to Registration and Voting on Polling Day and Advance Polling Days, 1920 to 2012', authored by Professor Louis Massicotte, Université Laval.

Footnote 16 As of October 2012 the 308 federal electoral districts in Canada were subdivided into a total of 64,572 polling divisions, with an average of 210 divisions per riding. Each polling division requires an absolute minimum of two election officers on Election Day. The average number of registered voters per polling division is 382.

Footnote 17 The Canada Elections Act, Section 542, specifies that the Governor in Council has responsibility for setting the federal election fees tariff. In practice, Treasury Board, a statutory Cabinet committee established under the Financial Administration Act, decides. A formula for an automatic annual increase was introduced into the election tariff in 2007, but rates paid to federal election officers have not kept pace with rates paid to provincial, territorial and local government election workers. The federal fee tariff is currently below the current minimum wage standards in several provinces.

Footnote 18 Under the heading, "General Guidelines for Your Team", the manual issued to Deputy Returning Officers and Polls Clerks (p. 14) states: "If you leave for a washroom break, voting must be suspended. Resume voting when both are present. No one else can act in your presence." Anticipating an obvious question, the next line says: "Bring your meals or arrange to have them delivered."

Footnote 19 See, for example, the Code of Conduct for the Ethical and Professional Administration of Elections, p. 10 published by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Available online at:

Footnote 20 Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act, received royal assent on June 22, 2007. It introduced a requirement for every elector to prove their identity and residential address before being issued a ballot, and a responsibility for election workers to prepare special forms that track which registered voters cast ballots within each half hour, and to provide a copy of the separate completed and signed forms to each candidate representative 22 times during Election Day.

Footnote 21 Presentation entitled 'National Register of Electors and the E-Registration Service' prepared by Nan Smith, Director, National Register of Electors, Elections Canada, November 2012.

Footnote 22 Statistics Canada, 2008. Special tabulation, based on 2006 Census of Population.

Footnote 23 Table information below is derived from various public election reports of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.

Election E-Day Registrants E-Day Voters % E-Day Registrants
41st General Election – May 2, 2011 757,539 12,490,692 6.06%
40th General Election – October 14, 2008 730,939 11,935,356 6.12%
39th General Election – January 23, 2006 796,101 12,700,392 6.27%
38th General Election – June 28, 2004 764,185 11,978,806 6.38%

Footnote 24 This fact was widely reported during research interviews undertaken to establish compliance best practices among Canadian provincial and territorial electoral management bodies. See Best Practices for Ensuring Compliance with Registration and Voting Procedures. Available online at:

Footnote 25 The legislated differences between federal and provincial/territorial election law are summarized in the Compendium of Election Administration in Canada: A Comparative Overview. Available online at: