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Canadians receive electoral information and services that meet their needs

To ensure a positive voting experience for Canadians, Elections Canada must provide the right information and services at the right time. A key indicator of Elections Canada's success for this result is the overall level of satisfaction voters expressed with the voting experience.

The National Electors Study measured electors' values, opinions and attitudes toward various election-related issues; their knowledge, expectations and experience of the electoral process; and their satisfaction with the agency's communications, services and programs. Most voters (97%) said they were at least somewhat satisfied with their voting experience, with a substantial majority (80%) expressing strong satisfaction. These proportions are similar to the 42nd general election, when 96% were satisfied and 81% very satisfied.

Key areas of accomplishment

The agency implemented service improvements, building on established practices and leveraging some of the flexibility provided in the Elections Modernization Act.

Significant preparatory work ensured electors were well served once the election was called. This work included:

Delivering the national multimedia Voter Information Campaign

Designed to reach the widest possible audience, Elections Canada's Voter Information Campaign is a national multimedia information campaign that provides Canadians with information on when, where and the ways to register and vote.

For the first time, the agency launched its Voter Information Campaign prior to the election call (during the pre-election period) to increase awareness of the 43rd general election and to encourage eligible Canadians to register to vote and to apply to work in the election. The campaign included messages to position Elections Canada as the official source of information on the electoral process. The pre-election component of the campaign focused primarily on new voters and other groups with lower electoral participation rates.

Findings

The National Electors Study on the 43rd Canadian Federal General Election: Report on the Voter Information Campaign and Elector Awareness indicates that Elections Canada was successful in reaching audiences and ensuring that Canadians had the necessary information to vote.

  • Most electors satisfied with the information provided by Elections Canada.

    The vast majority of survey respondents were satisfied with the information they had received from Elections Canada on the voting process. Satisfaction with electoral information increased over the course of the Voter Information Campaign from 68% at the beginning of the election period to 95% at the end. Over the course of the Voter Information Campaign, respondents increasingly recalled seeing ads from Elections Canada. In the post-election survey, most respondents felt very informed about where (78%), when (86%) and the ways to vote (65%).

  • Voter Information Campaign contributed to electors' awareness of identification requirements.

    The majority of electors stated that they were aware that voters are required to present proof of identity in order to vote in a Canadian federal election. In the 2019 National Electors Study, knowledge of proof of identity was surveyed at 93% pre-election and 97% post-election, results similar to those in the 2015 Survey of Electors. Electors' awareness of the need to provide proof of address was slightly lower but still very high at 83% pre-election and 91% post-election. This represents a slight increase from 2015 (88%).

  • Canadians felt Elections Canada's ads were clear and useful.

    When presented with a selection of Elections Canada advertisements, the vast majority of survey respondents agreed that ads were clear (87%) and provided useful information (86%), while smaller majorities agreed that they were relevant (71%) and attention-catching (67%).

Going forward

Elections Canada will enhance the Voter Information Campaign in order to keep pace with the information environment and respond to the needs of Canadians.

Streamlining services in local Elections Canada offices

Canadians have the option to register and vote in person at any local Elections Canada office across the country until the sixth day before election day. This is known as voting by special registration and special ballot voting services were integrated. This was a first for a general election.

Findings

According to the National Electors Study, 84% of voters were very satisfied with the voting experience in an Elections Canada office.

Post-election analyses also indicate that the new integrated service model provided a number of other benefits:

  • Integrated service model enabled faster voting.

    Integrating the registration and special voting services reduced the average elector service time by 11 minutes, which translated into smoother, faster and more convenient voting experience. According to the National Electors Study, voters reported an average time to vote at a local Elections Canada office of 8 minutes, versus 19 minutes in the 42nd general election.

  • Integrated service model proved to be cost-effective.

    Comparisons with the cost per transaction in the 42nd general election demonstrated a cost savings of approximately $1.33 per elector transaction (or approximately $3.4 million in total) with the implementation of the new integrated model for the 43rd general election.

  • Integrated service model well received by election workers.

    Overall, 97% of returning officers reported that the new model worked well and that election workers liked it better. Their feedback in the Returning Officers' Report on Proceedings Summary, also confirmed that the integration of the services was very useful and should be maintained for future elections.

Going forward

Elections Canada will maintain the integrated service model and continue to look for ways to improve elector services in local offices.

Providing other special service offerings

Canadians have several options for registering and voting by special ballot. These service offerings were expanded for the 43rd general election, including more on-campus voting locations, expanded eligibility for international electors, and additional service points to address exceptional circumstances. Elector demand for these services was higher than ever before.

Findings

The agency successfully delivered a variety of special ballot voting options to meet the needs of Canadians.

  • Special ballot voters satisfied with Elections Canada's services.

    Findings from the Survey of Special Ballot Voters1 suggest that nearly all respondents (98%) who had interacted with Elections Canada staff indicated that they were satisfied with the services provided. National mail-in voters were more likely to say that they would not have voted at all (55%) if they had not had the option to vote by special ballot, compared with Elections Canada office voters (38%) and campus voters (14%).

  • Alternative voting options used when election day coincided with religious holidays.

    Jewish communities raised concerns that polling day coincided with Jewish High Holy Days, creating a barrier to voting for observant Jewish electors. In response, Elections Canada worked directly with community leaders in 54 of 338 federal ridings—where adjusted 2016 census data showed the Jewish population to be over 1%—to design solutions to facilitate voting during times that observant Jewish electors were not restricted from voting. The agency set up 27 special voting kiosks, invited residents of 19 long-term care facilities with primarily Jewish residents to vote earlier by special ballot, and increased capacity and service hours in some Elections Canada offices. The resulting initiatives enhanced services and provided voting options for observant members of the Jewish community.

  • Special ballot voting allowed flexibility to respond to storms in Manitoba. In response to storms in Manitoba during the election period, Elections Canada implemented a series of extraordinary measures to accommodate affected electors. The agency set up an additional polling place at the University of Winnipeg's Convocation Hall for evacuees from 14 communities in four affected electoral districts. About 270 electors used this voting option. The agency also opened special voting kiosks in two communities, Lundar and Portage la Prairie, for emergency workers—mostly from Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba—who had been deployed in Manitoba to restore power and telecommunications services and who were unable to make it to their assigned polling station on election day. Elections Canada closely collaborated with Manitoba Hydro, coordinating voting times to prevent long lines and accommodate workers' schedules. In all, 592 workers used these additional service points. More information is available in the statutory report.

  • Expanded Vote on Campus program well received by electors.

    After the success of the on-campus voting pilot during the 42nd general election, Elections Canada made Vote on Campus a national program. For the 43rd general election, the agency opened 119 satellite offices at 98 post-secondary institutions, a more than 200% increase over the 39 locations in 2015. These offices were predominantly used by electors requesting to vote from outside their home electoral district. According to the Survey of Special Ballot Voters, a majority (62%) of campus voters chose to vote by special ballot because the location of the Vote on Campus office was convenient for them. This continued the trend observed during the 42nd general election pilot and suggests that Vote on Campus services are particularly well suited to the needs of students and other electors who cannot easily vote at their assigned polling stations. For the 43rd general election, the days of operation were also increased to five days (October 5–9, 2019). The vast majority (91%) of campus voters were very satisfied with their overall voting experience and nearly all (98%) were either somewhat or very satisfied with the services provided by Elections Canada staff. In fact, satisfaction with the overall voting experience was higher when compared to national and international mail-in voters. However, voting on campus did reportedly take longer than voting in a local Elections Canada office (8.6 minutes and to 6.7 minutes, respectively).

  • Mail-in voting met expectations despite an increase in demand.

    Demand for mail-in voting (national and international electors) increased in the 43rd general election by 66% over the 42nd general election. This was due to a significant increase (210%) in international voters for this election over the 42nd general election. Certain provisions in the Canada Elections Act that prevented Canadians living abroad for more than five years from voting by special ballot were repealed ahead of the election. The repeal led to a surge in Canadians registering on the International Register of Electors—55,000 compared to 16,000 in the 42nd general election—and a surge in ballots received from electors living abroad, with 34,000 international electors casting ballots compared to 11,000 in the 42nd general election. Findings from the Survey of Special Ballot Voters reveal that it took national mail-in voters an average of 7.8 days to receive their ballot in the mail after their application had been submitted to Elections Canada and another 4.5 days to return it by mail (12.3 days total). This process reportedly took longer for international mail-in voters, at 17 days total. Overall, 94% of international mail-in voters and 92% of national mail-in voters were satisfied with their voting experience.

Going forward

Special ballot voting offers several options to address voting needs during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Elections Canada will:

  • Leverage the experience and the lessons learned from the 43rd general election and previous elections to identify ways to deliver an accessible, safe and secure federal general election should one be called before the pandemic is over.
  • Review and improve processes in order to be in a position to accommodate larger numbers of mail-in ballots at the next general election.
  • Pause vote on campus services for the 44th general election given the time needed to prepare and the current pandemic situation.
  • Examine options for establishing a sustainable solution to ensure faith-based communities are supported when a general election falls on a religious holiday. The Chief Electoral Officer may provide recommendations to Parliament for legislative change to enable possible solutions.

Supporting returning officers and election officers effectively effectively

It is the returning officer who has the primary responsibility to deliver the federal election within their electoral district according to the Chief Electoral Officer's instructions. Strong support of returning officers is key to enabling effective services to Canadians.

The independent audit on the performance of election officers concluded that election officers properly exercised the powers conferred on them and appropriately performed the duties imposed on them under the Canada Elections Act. The auditors further noted that the manuals, training material, forms and certificates developed by Elections Canada effectively supported election officers.

Findings

While overall, Canadians reported high satisfaction rates with the voting services they received, Elections Canada had only moderate success in meeting the expectations of returning officers and election officer for support.

  • Returning officers reported a significant decline in satisfaction with poll worker training tools.

    While 83% of returning officers reported that their training satisfactorily prepared them for the 43rd general election, according to the Returning Officers' Report of Proceedings Summary, 61% of returning officers felt that the training tools for poll workers were insufficient. This is a decline from the 42nd general election, when 70% of returning officers reported satisfaction with the training tools. Those dissatisfied with the training were primarily concerned with the quality, and those dissatisfied with the training tools were primarily dissatisfied with the guidebook. The summary of findings in the Survey of Election Officers explains that, although the training was targeted to support each position, the complexity of the tasks was hard to grasp for several roles. This was confirmed by the survey data, with 4 in 10 poll workers (39%) reporting that election instructions were too complex to understand quickly and easily. Details are available in the Survey of Election Officers.

  • Elections workers satisfied with election materials.

    Elections Canada provided election officers with materials to facilitate their duties, including guidebooks of instructions, checklists, training guides and information sheets. Eighty-seven percent of returning officers reported satisfaction with the timely delivery of these materials. Additionally, 72% of returning officers appreciated the new self-service options available through the support website for field staff. Returning officers noted that they appreciated the overall quality of information available, including instructions concerning revision procedures and guidelines for conducting meetings with confirmed candidates. Nine in 10 poll workers (92%) also reported being satisfied with the election materials that were provided to them.

  • Simplified forms improved recordkeeping.

    Following audit findings and recommendations from the 42nd general election, a number of forms and certificates were reviewed and simplified. The independent audit on the performance of election officers found that some recordkeeping errors that were an issue in the 42nd general election were no longer an issue in the 43rd general election, and recordkeeping improvements were observed. Additionally, 87% of poll workers found the updated forms easy to complete.

Going forward

Elections Canada strives to support returning officers and poll workers to ensure that they are prepared to deliver services and information to Canadians in each electoral district. Elections Canada will continue to examine the causes of poll worker dropouts and training concerns to ensure the best supports are provided to returning officers. The agency will implement the following measures to address these issues and improve working conditions:

  • Continue to offer shifts and breaks while increasing flexibility and opportunities for returning officers to adapt work schedules to their worker pool and operational reality.
  • Adapt poll worker wages to ensure they are competitive with those offered by similar employers.
  • Improve the poll worker staffing model and communications to provide returning officers with more flexible staffing options during long voting hours and days.
  • Review and improve the content and delivery of training programs and tools and identify opportunities to simplify and clarify procedures and practices.
  • Allow returning officers and trainers more time to become familiar with the training material, including before the writs are issued.
  • Simplify training and duties, including by reducing the length of training and the complexity of the closing procedures.
  • Enhance the information that is shared at each stage of recruitment and provide all relevant information to workers as early as possible.

In the medium term, Elections Canada is looking to implement an integrated personnel management system that supports all stages, from hiring to compensation, and meets the operational needs of staff in the regions.

Educating young Canadians

Elections Canada's mandate includes implementing education programs for elementary and secondary students with the goal of preparing them to participate in Canada's electoral democracy when they are eligible.

Findings

During the 43rd general election, Elections Canada engaged a contractor, CIVIX, to deliver a student election program called Student Vote Canada 2019. The program ran parallel to the 43rd general election and reached 1.2 million young Canadians. This is the highest participation rate for a student vote program to date.

  • Student Vote Canada program had a substantial impact on students' civic literacy.

    Elections Canada's contractor, CIVIX, commissioned Abacus Data to conduct an external evaluation of the Student Vote Canada 2019 program. The evaluation, which was based on 12,922 survey responses, as well as on observations and interviews, found a 20-percentage-point increase overall in the self-reported understanding of politics and elections, and a comparable increase in the number of students who answered the knowledge questions correctly. Three quarters of students said they felt more prepared to vote in the future after participating in the program. Students who said they would "definitely" vote in the future increased by 14 percentage points.

  • Educational resources well received.

    Elections Canada made available its new Elections and Democracy website, which offers a suite of civic education resources for teachers. This improved civic education offering led to 12% more educators ordering a record number of learning resources during the 2019 election period relative to 2015. Surveys of teachers who ordered Elections Canada's educational resources showed that not only were unprecedented numbers of students reached, but also the satisfaction with the educational offerings was extremely high. Of the teachers surveyed, 99% agreed that the resources increased their students' knowledge of elections and 98% agreed that it equipped them to teach about elections and democracy.

Going forward

Elections Canada will continue to leverage the real-life learning opportunities offered by a general election. In particular, the agency will:

In a minority Parliament context, when an election can take place at any time, it will be more difficult for schools and teachers to prepare for election learning, and it is anticipated that participation levels for the 44th general election will be lower than for the 43rd general election.

To facilitate civic education during the 44th general election, Elections Canada will build on its strong base of existing programming and focus on the following:

  • Prepare earlier for the delivery of Student Vote Canada, including shipping and storing election supplies in advance.
  • Streamline lesson plans and activities so they can be taught in a shorter time frame.
  • Make only minor revisions and updates to educational resources.

Footnotes

1 The survey sample in the Survey of Special Ballot Voters consisted of national mail-in voters, international mail-in voters, Elections Canada office voters and campus voters. It did not include electors who voted by special ballot at an acute care facility, during a home visit or at a Canadian Forces base.