A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Election Revisited

The election has now taken place and for many of us the results may override any concerns that we had with the process however make no mistake this election process was far from flawless. If we are to believe the folks who reported problems at Pollwatch there were polls that failed to open on time or ran out of ballots, poll staff who did not understand or follow the rules regarding identification, numerous errors on voter identification cards regarding poll locations (only some of which EC caught before the election), failure to update voter lists for those who took the time to pre-regester etc etc.

All these things are unacceptable and appear to be centred upon two things, errors and missing information in ECs database, and inadequate training (or understanding of it) and unreliability of temporary poll staff. I presume that EC will be investigating these failures and seeking solutions but don’t KNOW that they will be doing so as I have seen no post election acknowledgement of these issues. I will therefor try and speak to some of these things, point out why I think some of the issues arised and suggest some possible solutions. I will be considering forwarding some of these observations and ideas to Elections Canada via their feedback contact page at https://secure.elections.ca/FeedbackQuestion.aspx?lang=e. If you had problems voting or were unable to vote for one reason or another I would suggest you document the exact details of you experience and submit it directly to EC via this means. The twitter pollwatch feed certainly indicates some of the problems but to fix them EC will require more detailed information and by submitting it directly it is more likely to be looked into.

A number of voters who had moved or found out they were not registered and called in or registered on line found out that that were still not on the list on voting day. This is obviously a problem with the database entry regime, there is some evidence that if your name and birthdate exists elsewhere in the database one or the other will be considered a duplicate and be deleted, a small error in data entry when transcribing from a written address change form or list (which all have inadequate space for fire#s and longer addresses), perhaps aggravated by poor writing, will result in your not showing up where you should on the list. Some poll staff are known to have not entered the FULL address on address change lists on polling day so next time........!

A better way of correcting addresses at EC offices, advanced and regular polls would IMHO be to have voters fill in (print please) a card with said information prior to approaching the poll clerks, the clerk could then check said address against their ID and drop card into an “address change” box to be sent on the EC for database updates. Saves time and reduces the chance of errors.

Part of the problem with folks not being registered or going to the wrong poll station must be blamed upon the search function on the EC website as regards finding IF you are registered and finding what poll station to vote at. Given that poll areas cross the boundary lines of postal code areas and to identify voters exact data is needed we understand that accurate address information is needed but trying to get the web site to accept such is damn near impossible, particularly for rural areas where 'streets' are not named.
When searching for where to vote after entering your postal code you are presented with this......

I live at '123456' 'Side Road 9', Township of 'abcd'
I entered this information 6 or 8 different ways in the above form and never did get told where to vote, not only did it reject my entry’s but then deleted my previous attempt and failed to tell me what bit it did not like. I later found out that apparently I live on '9' 'siderd' and my neighbours who live on 'concession 6' live on '6' 'concession' , I note that the address on voter info cards is likewise printed arse backwards. Very confusing for rural residents who's official (per municipal paperwork, drivers licence etc) is the former not the latter. What “Number suffix” means I have no clue!
A simple fix for this would be to be more precise as to what the data entry field requires i.e 'House number or Firecode', 'Street name or Road Number' etc. Also I note that when searching to find if you are registered you will be presented with a pull down list of possible streets / roads in your area whilst when searching for poll location you are not. Why not? Some folks postal address is different from their municipal address, even going to a box number in different municipality and even different postal code area this does not seem to be accounted for in distributing voter information cards or database information.

Now we turn to staff errors and polls failing to open, these are obviously mostly a failure of temporary staff failing to understand or absorb the 4 hours of training that they were suppose to receive and failing to review the quite precise and detailed training manual they received. Given that most of these folks are hired for one 14 to 16 hour day (plus 4 hours training) on a one time basis it is hardly surprising that such issues arise and it is difficult to ensure that reliable individuals are hired, particularly in that even the trainers and EC district are mostly temporary staff hire for a few days or weeks. Perhaps poll staff should go through a 'mock' voting routine during training rather than just watch a film and briefly review the book? Some folks had to fight to vote even with proper ID and were asked for secondary ID even after presenting their drivers licence, we have no count of those who were denied the right to vote as such things are not counted, when turned away for whatever reason it should be documented by staff and the voter encouraged to fill in a 'complaints form'. How else can EC know there is a problem?

In a letter to the Editor thanking the more than 200,000 election workers Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada said “There will be time in the coming weeks and months to review our electoral procedures and consider ways they could be modernized for future elections. For now, our dedicated election workers should take great pride in their accomplishments and important contributions to our society.” We should indeed thank these folks for they worked a long day with no breaks and without them the election could not take place.

Here's a though, why not combine the federal and provincial systems and full time staff so that all elections in Canada are run by the same entity, using the same system, the same databases and wherever possible the same individuals who previously worked the polls. Why not encourage and enable both poll staff and exiting voters to document any problems they encountered by placing forms (indicating poll # so they are traceable) and THE 'complaints box' (yes there is one) in an obvious and clearly marked location at the exit door and actually asking staff to use them. Why not devise a system that allows voter to vote at ANY poll withing their district (as they do at district offices by special poll), they are after all all voting for the same group of candidates. This may involve the use of interconnected computers , =gasp= , not necessarily to vote but to track who has voted.

There seem to be two main needs, to see if the individual is entitled to vote - 18 and Canadian citizen (is this ever checked, how about every body get a permanent citizenship/ photo id / voter card?) and have they voted before. Perhaps we need to get them to dip their thumb in indelible ink, it would work better than the current system!
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Lorne said...

In whatever improvements that need to be made, Rural, let's hope that the new government, unlike the old one, will see Elections Canada as its ally, not its foe.

Rural said...

Yes Lorne, they must be part of the process to select a new system and have input into how it will impact the practical aspects of using such voting system.

Owen Gray said...

Full time staff is an excellent suggestion, Rural. Databases, one presumes, would be kept up to date.

Rural said...

Whilst the sharing of databases across federal and provincial lines may concern some folk it already takes place to some extent, it seems to me that one master 'Citizen of Canada' list would be more efficient, Owen.