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Electors with Disabilities

Research has demonstrated that some groups of electors, including electors with disabilities, tend to vote less than the mainstream Canadian population does. To ensure that these electors can exercise their right to vote in federal elections, it is important to understand the barriers that they may face. To do so, Elections Canada looks at results from post-election surveys it conducts, as well as research on participation and democratic engagement. We also have ongoing consultations and relationships with various stakeholder groups, including several organizations representing electors with disabilities.

Electors with disabilities include Canadians aged 18 and older whose everyday activities are limited because of temporary or long-term impairments. They also include seniors living in long-term care facilities. In 2017, one in five (6.2 million) Canadians aged 15 and older reported having one or more disability. This includes over 2.6 million with mobility limitations. Among those with disabilities, 43% had severe or very severe disabilities. The most common disabilities relate to pain, flexibility, mobility and mental health (Statistics Canada). Seniors, and especially older seniors, are almost twice as likely to have disabilities (47% of seniors aged 75 and older) compared with those of working age (20% of adults aged 25 to 64).

Since the 1990s, the federal electoral process has been adapted significantly to ensure that electors with disabilities can vote freely and independently (see A History of the Vote in Canada). Research has identified five types of barriers that people with disabilities may face: architectural and physical, attitudinal and cultural, informational and communication, legal and policy, and those rooted in the socio-economic status of people living with disabilities (as detailed in a 2012 study by Michael Prince).

Notes:

  • This section presents results from the 2019 post-election surveys (National Electors Study), which was refined to provide a better understanding of the barriers that some groups of electors may face when voting in federal elections.
  • In contrast with previous elections, an index was used in 2019 to measure the severity of disabilities.
  • Where possible, results are compared with those from previous elections.
  • Only statistically significant results are presented here.

Participating in federal elections

Electors with severe disabilities tend to vote less than other electors do, and their reasons for not voting are more often related to illness or the electoral process.

  • In 2019, electors with disabilities were less likely to report having voted (87%) than were those without a disability (92%). Electors with severe or very severe disabilities were even less likely to report having voted (80%).
  • The likelihood of identifying an illness or disability as a reason for not voting increased with the severity of the disability, from 6% of those without a disability to 13% of those with severe or very severe disabilities.
  • Electors with severe or very severe disabilities were more likely to report reasons related to the electoral process for not voting (24%), compared to those with mild or moderate disabilities (10%) or those with no disability (10%).

Attitudes and interest toward democracy and politics

Electors with severe disabilities tend to be less satisfied with how democracy works and show lower levels of interest in politics.

  • In 2019, the likelihood of expressing dissatisfaction with how democracy works in Canada increased with the severity of disabilities (from 18% of electors with no disability to 24% of electors with disabilities and to 30% of electors with severe or very severe disabilities).
  • The level of interest in politics also decreased with the severity of disabilities: from 82% for those with no disability to 78% for those with mild or moderate disabilities and to 72% for those with severe or very severe disabilities.
  • Before the call of the election, electors with disabilities were less likely to view voting as a duty than as a choice (69%, versus 76% for those without a disability). This difference is more pronounced among electors with severe or very severe disabilities (62%).

Knowledge of the electoral process

Electors with severe disabilities tend to be less likely to know about the voting methods or to be familiar with Elections Canada.

  • In 2019, electors with disabilities were less likely to mention polling stations on election day (87%) or advance polls (66%) as ways to vote in federal elections, than were those with no disability (92% and 73%, respectively). This difference was more pronounced among those with severe or very severe disabilities (83% mentioned polling stations on election day and 56% mentioned advance polls).
  • Electors with disabilities were also less likely to say that they were familiar with Elections Canada (83%) than were electors with no disability (85%). Electors with severe or very severe disabilities were even less likely to be familiar (81%).

Getting registered

Getting registered appears to be more challenging for electors with severe disabilities.

  • In 2019, electors with disabilities were less likely to say that they were registered (86%) than were those with no disability (90%). This was particularly true for electors with severe or very severe disabilities (82%).
  • Electors with disabilities were less likely to recall receiving the voter information card (91%) than those with no disability were (93%). This gap is greater among those with severe or very severe disabilities (89%).
  • Electors with disabilities (95%) were also less likely to find registration easy than those with no disability did (97%).

Getting to the polling place

Accessing the polling place appears to be more challenging for voters with severe disabilities.

  • In 2019, the vast majority of electors with disabilities found it easy to access the polling place (97%, including 85% who found it very easy). This represents an increase from 93% in 2015. However, voters with severe or very severe disabilities were less likely than those with mild or moderate disabilities to say that they had found it very easy to access the polling place (79%, versus 87%).
  • Voters with severe or very severe disabilities were less likely to say that their polling place was in a very familiar location than were voters without a disability (69%, versus 73%).
  • Voters with disabilities were less likely to report that it took fewer than five minutes to get to their voting locations (52%) than were those without a disability (55%).
  • Electors with severe or very severe disabilities were less likely to describe the building where they voted as very suitable for holding an election (76%, compared with 84% for those without a disability).
  • Among those who used their vehicles to get to the polls, electors with disabilities (4%) and those with severe or very severe disabilities (5%) were more likely to say they did not find suitable parking, when compared with voters with no disability (3%).

Voting at the polling place

Voting at a polling place remains challenging for electors with severe disabilities.

  • In 2019, 7% of electors with disabilities said that someone had assisted them in marking their ballots.
  • While most voters with disabilities (82%) indicated that Elections Canada staff were sensitive to their needs during voting (compared with 84% in 2015), 5% felt that Elections Canada staff were not sensitive to their needs during voting (similar to 2015).
  • Also, while most voters with disabilities were very satisfied with the services provided by Elections Canada when they voted, the likelihood of being very satisfied decreased as the severity of disabilities increased (from 86% of those with no disability to 82% for those with disabilities, and to 79% for those with severe or very severe disabilities). This is comparable to 2015, when 84% of electors with disabilities and 86% of electors with no disabilities said that they were very satisfied.
  • Electors with disabilities (82%) and electors with severe or very severe disabilities (78%) were less likely to find it very easy to vote than were those with no disability (87%).
  • The likelihood of being very satisfied with their voting experience decreased as the severity of disabilities increased (from 82% of those with no disability to 77% for those with disabilities, and to 72% for those with severe or very severe disabilities).

Providing identification

While electors with severe disabilities are more likely to use two pieces of identification, they are less likely to find it easy to meet the identification requirements.

  • Note: To prove their identification when voting in person, an elector must show one government-issued photo identification or two pieces of identification to prove their identity and address, or they can make a solemn declaration and be vouched for by another elector. These options aim at increasing accessibility for those who may have difficulties in proving their identity.
  • In 2019, electors with disabilities (6%) and particularly those with severe or very severe disabilities (9%) were more likely to have used two pieces of identification than were those with no disability (4%). Those with severe or very severe disabilities were also more likely to use the voter information card as proof of address (4%) than were those with disabilities (2%) and those with no disability (2%).
  • Those who had disabilities (92%) and particularly those with severe or very severe disabilities (89%) were less likely to find it very easy to meet the identification requirements than were those with no disability (95%).

Trusting the electoral process

Electors with severe disabilities are less likely to have confidence or trust in the electoral process.

  • In 2019, electors with disabilities were less likely to say that they had a great deal of confidence in Elections Canada (51%) than were those with no disability (60%). The likeliness to say so increased with the level of disability, from 43% for those with severe or very severe disabilities to 54% for those with mild or moderate disabilities.
  • Electors with disabilities were less likely to strongly agree that Elections Canada was the most trusted source of information about the electoral process than among those without disabilities (52% versus 59%). This likelihood increased with the level of disability, from 46% for those with severe or very severe disabilities. To 54% for those with mild or moderate disabilities.
  • Electors with disabilities were less likely to say that the election was run very fairly (65%) than those with no disability were (72%). This is similar to the results in 2015 (60% and 69%, respectively). Electors with severe or very severe disabilities were less likely to say so (56%).
  • Also, the likelihood of expressing very high trust in the accuracy of results decreased as the severity of disabilities increased (from 64% of electors with no disability to 55% for those with disabilities, and to 46% for those with severe or very severe disabilities).

Did you know?

There is a difference between an elector and a voter. An elector is any Canadian citizen 18 years of age and over. A voter is a Canadian citizen who has voted.

View the National Electors Study A voter's journey: from home to the ballot box for a comparison of the experiences of the general population and groups who face barriers to participating in elections.

View Information for People with Disabilities to learn about the programs and services designed to address the barriers to voting faced by electors with disabilities.

Go to Inspire Democracy to learn more about how Elections Canada and our network of stakeholder organizations are working together to address some of the barriers to getting involved with elections.