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Independent audit report on the performance of the duties and functions of Election Officials – By-elections October 23, 2017

Executive summary

In response to section 164.1 of the Canada Elections Act, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was engaged to perform an independent, statutory audit and report on whether deputy returning officers (DRO), poll clerks (PC) and registration officers (REGO) have, on all days of advance polling and on polling day, properly exercised the powers conferred on them, and properly performed the duties and functions imposed on them, under sections 143 to 149, 161 to 162 and 169 (hereinafter referred to as "the relevant sections") of the Canada Elections Act (CEA or "the Act") for each general election and by-election. This report is in relation to the by-elections held in the Electoral Districts of Lac-Saint-Jean (Quebec) and Sturgeon River–Parkland (Alberta) on October 23, 2017 (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the Electoral Districts" or "EDs").

In addition to other roles required to prepare for and support advance polling and election day, each returning officer (RO) is responsible for appointing a DRO, a PC and a REGO (collectively referred to as "Election Officials") to perform election related duties at a polling site. One DRO and one PC is required per polling station and typically, one REGO is assigned to each central polling site/place. It is the duties of these specific Election Officials that are included in the scope of this audit under S.164.1 of the Act.

The scope of the duties of Election Officials as prescribed in the relevant sections of the Act require Election Officials to register electors, request and examine each elector's proof of identity and address as well as administer and complete prescribed forms and certificates on all days of advance polling (held October 13 to October 16, 2017) and on election day (held on October 23, 2017) in relation to these by-elections.

Any Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years of age on election day may vote in the ED in which they reside. The CEA provides procedural safeguards designed to protect the integrity of the electoral process, one of which requires electors to prove eligibility (identity and residency) before receiving a ballot. For most electors who are already registered at their current address and therefore included on the List of Electors, election day procedures involve a simple, efficient check of one or more pieces of acceptable identification to confirm identity and address of residence. Based on our testing results, approximately 98% of electors voted in this manner. The remaining 2% of electors tested required special administrative procedures prior to being issued a ballot.

Election Officials must administer special procedures for all electors whose residence is going to be attested to, who are not on the List of Electors, whose name has been previously crossed off the List of Electors in error or who require minor corrections to their information. Depending on the circumstances, special procedures include initiating the appropriate certificate, administering a verbal or written oath/declaration to the elector and administering a verbal warning/written oath to an elector and their attestor. These procedures are intended to reinforce the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring that ballots are only issued once to eligible electors.

Our audit did not validate election results, assess whether Election Officials other than DROs, PCs and REGOs performed their specific legislative duties, assess performance of legislative duties that are not specifically referred to in S.164.1 of the Act nor did it assess the administrative controls of EC beyond those implemented for purposes of supporting Election Officials in the conduct of their duties under S.164.1 of the Act.

Our audit findings and conclusions are presented at an aggregate level. A by-election was called in two (2) EDs. Accordingly, our results are presented on an aggregate basis. Our results are not attributed to any specific ED, polling site, polling station or Election Official. While we did note Other Observations, we did not note any major findings. Our Other Observations are described below. We are not proposing any new recommendations in relation to the by-elections on October 23, 2017.

We performed our audit in accordance with the Canadian Standard on Assurance Engagements 3001: Direct Engagements (CSAE 3001).

Audit criteria

For this audit, the principal criteria and therefore our audit mandate are specifically prescribed in the relevant sections of the Act described above. For the purpose of this audit, a significant deviation in the exercise of powers and the performance of the duties and functions of Election Officials was based on two levels of controls and procedures as well as reporting thresholds. Key controls and procedures are those performed by Election Officials which establish a person's qualification and entitlement to vote. Secondary controls are those which support/reinforce the elector's established qualification/entitlement to vote and are typically more record-keeping in nature. Our audit criteria for this audit is consistent with our audit criteria reported on in our independent audit report on the performance of the duties and functions of Election Officials dated February 16, 2016 in relation to the 2015 general election and our subsequent reports in relation to the federal by-elections on October 24, 2016 and on April 3, 2017.

The establishment of thresholds for reporting purposes was critical during the planning of the audit. The reporting thresholds were agreed with management and reflect the relative importance of the control. For key controls, a deviation of 5% or more was considered a major finding. For those same key controls, a deviation of 2%–4.9% was considered as other observations. For secondary controls, a deviation of 11% or more was considered as other observations. The reporting thresholds are consistent with our report on the 2015 general election and our reports on the by-elections held on October 24, 2016 and April 3, 2017.

Approach

In order to provide reasonable assurance as to whether Election Officials performed their duties and functions as prescribed by the CEA, we selected a sample of polling sites in both EDs and gathered sufficient and appropriate evidence to conclude on the audit objective. Evidence gathering techniques comprised of direct observation, enquiries and inspection of election documents (representing the certificates, forms, reports and other paperwork required to serve an elector and document the results).

In order to assess whether DROs, PCs and REGOs properly performed the duties imposed on them under the relevant sections of the Act, we determined that it was necessary to perform audit procedures on site at polling sites and stations at advance polls and on election day (October 23, 2017). For these by-elections, each ED was comprised of a combination of urban and rural polling sites according to EC's designation of polling divisions. We selected a sample of urban and rural polling sites and resulted in PwC auditing approximately 120 electoral interactions.

There were no significant changes to the overall design and delivery of the training program, including training and support materials such as guidebooks. Accordingly, we relied on our assessment of administrative controls in relation to the audits we conducted for prior by-elections as a basis for our conclusion on administrative controls. Overall, EC's training program is comprehensive and is effective for providing prescriptive guidance and support to the temporary workforce that is hired to work at each by-election

Summary of findings

We concluded that:

On all days of advance polling and on election day, Election Officials properly exercised the powers conferred on them, and properly performed the duties and functions imposed on them under the relevant sections of the Act with respect to regular electors and electors requiring special procedures. While there were some inconsistencies in the completeness and accuracy of documentation, these errors were not pervasive. Overall, no major findings were identified during our audit.

EC asked us to report any other relevant observations that we captured during the course of our work that might assist them to improve or enhance their processes. In this context, we did not identify additional observations other than those already noted in our reports on the 2015 general election and the by-elections on October 24, 2016 and April 3, 2017.