University of Guelph Political Science Society Blog

In defence of the system

Updated: October 18, 2011. In the initial article, I made specific references to the procedures employed by Elections Canada and Elections Ontario and discussed the methods of these agencies. Both of these agencies simply carry out Acts of Parliament (or the Ontario Legislature), so I have updated it to examine the actual procedure, and not the agencies’ conducts themselves.

While the current Ontario election had a record low turnout of 49.2%, I think it is safe to assume that this was not due to the administration of the election. In fact, the Ontario election was better administered and organized than the federal election. The Ontario election voting process was also a lot simpler.

In both of the elections, the candidates’ representatives were provided access to the electoral tracking lists (known as “bingo sheets”). These lists contained each elector’s tracking number, which the reps would check against their own records to see whether or not their supporters had voted yet.

While this process is important and crucial to democracy, the amount of catering that Elections Canada is required to provide by statute to the reps is a little over the top. In the federal election, each bingo sheet had a carbon copy of three sheets. If there were over three candidates, the poll clerk had to highlight two bingo sheets (creating six copies). Every half hour, six sheets were used, when in a majority of polls only the Liberals and Conservatives had enough resources to have reps at the polls, leading to many wasted sheets. Interestingly, this process was newly introduced in December 2007 by Bill C-31, so it is unlikely this will change any time soon.

In the Ontario election, there was one master bingo sheet which reps were allowed to look at when there were no electors at the polls. Thus, instead of using 6 sheets for every half hour the polls were open (amounting to 144 wasted sheets of paper), only one was used. The federal model should re-adopt the Ontarian model to make this process more environmentally friendly.

Secondly, the distribution and acceptance of ballots was also more efficient in the Ontario election. In the federal election, once the elector had voted, they were required to return their ballot to the Deputy Returning Officer (DRO), who would verify that the ballot was the one which he had issued, tear off a counterfoil, and hand it back to the elector, who would then drop the ballot into the box. This process was time-consuming, especially when there were dozens of people in line and the elections officials had to process multiple people at the same time. In the Ontario election, the elector was simply required to show the ballot to the DRO, who would verify the initials were his before allowing the elector to drop his/her ballot into the box. These processes are governed by ss. 143-153 of the Canada Elections Act.

Finally, the identification process, while certainly less stringent in the Ontario election, made for a more efficient process. In the Ontario election, only the elector’s name needed to be proven, while at the federal election, both name and residence needed to be proven. This led to a delay in the federal election when some people were unsure of the voting requirements and took longer to process while they fished out that extra piece of ID, or having to declare an oath. In conclusion, the federal electoral model should cater less to the candidates’ representatives, be more environmentally friendly, and perhaps consider a more efficient approach.

Original post here.

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