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3. Standardization of Provincial - Municipal Legislation

The options which follow set out potential legislative changes for discussion which would provide for the necessary flexibility for fair and responsible elections, without being so restrictive as to prevent them from being done in an ideal manner.

A number of major areas have been identified where common rules for both provincial and municipal elections could be developed and applied. This could be achieved through a single, consolidated act or through harmonization of the existing pieces of legislation as follows:

3.1 Revision and Swearing in at the Polls
A number of complaints were received in the 1995 provincial election, in urban polling divisions, over the current swearing-in procedures. The Elections Act stipulates that an elector, who had not been enumerated, is required to apply in person before a Revision Officer at the office of the Returning Officer. The elector also has to be accompanied by another eligible elector from his or her polling division, in order to be put on the official list of electors and to be able to vote at an advance poll, or at the regular poll. There is a slightly different process for rural polling divisions, where the elector is not required to have another elector vouch for him or her to be added. This revision period lasts one day. If the Elector misses revision day he or she would be unable to vote at the advance poll. However, the elector can still use the same process described above before a Qualification Officer on polling day. An elector, in a rural polling division, is required to have another elector vouch for him or her at the regular poll. Problems also existed at mobile polls for those electors not on the enumeration list.

It is proposed for discussion that any eligible elector, who can provide proper identification, will be added or be amended on a Registry of Electors at an advance poll, regular or mobile poll, up to and including election day. Proper identification could include signature identification such as drivers license, major credit card or similarly accepted common identification.

This amendment proposes the removal of the need for a witness to swear for an elector before a Revision or Qualification Officer. In today’s modern society, with the availability of proper identification, the need to bring another eligible elector to swear before a Revision or Qualification Officer may no longer be required.

3.2 Election Schedule
The election schedule, as established by individual provisions in each act, is different between municipal and provincial elections and should be standardized. Presently, the schedule for a provincial election held under the Elections Act ranges in length from 28 to 38 days. Under the Municipal Elections Act, a longer time period, ranging from 42 to 50 days applies. One of the major areas of difference between the two calendars is the nomination period which normally closes14 days before the event in the former and 24 days in the later act.

The length of the election schedule could be standardized, and with societal changes and with advances in communications and technology, the longer period may no longer be necessary. The provincial elections have been held over a relatively short time frame of late, with the municipal elections generally using a much longer period. Therefore, it is proposed for discussion that the provincial election be run on a compressed election calendar of 35 to 25 days, while the municipal calendar could be shortened to 25 days. It is further proposed that a consistent close of nominations, 17 days prior to polling day, be adopted for both electoral processes /A>as outlined in the following table, entitled Proposed Election Schedule, listing the highlights of a new schedule. This period will provide an additional two days in the calendar to print all candidates names on proposed Special (Write -in) Ballots, which will be discussed later in the paper. This compressed timetable however, would depend on the success in achieving certain of the improvements and streamlining contained in the document.

Proposed Election Schedule

Present
Election Event
Schedule
Days before
Polling Day
Provincial
Days before
Polling Day
Municipal
Proposed
Schedule
Issue Writ / Beginning of
Municipal Enumeration
38 - 28 50-42 35 -25 Prov.
25 Mun.
Issue Proclamation 33 - 23 n/a n/a
Publish Proclamation /
Notice of Election
19 39 19
Nomination begins 38 - 28 39 35 -25 Prov.
25 Mun.
Revision begins 12 (10am) 43 - 35 ongoing
Revision ends 12 (10pm) 25 01
Nominations close 14 (2pm) 24 (noon) 17 (2pm)
Issue Write-in Ballots 14 n/a 14
Publish Notice of Advance Poll 12 (incl. in Grant of Poll) 19
Publish Grant of Poll 12 12 12
Advance Poll - 1st day 09 (8am-8pm) 10 (5pm-10pm) 09 (10am-8pm)
Advance Poll - 2nd day 07 (8am-8pm) 09 (10am-3pm) 07 (10am-8pm)
Return Write-in Ballots 04 n/a 01
Election Day 0 (10am-8pm) 0 (10am-8pm) 0 (10am-8pm)
Official Addition /
Declaration Day
-07 0 -04
Recount deadline -11 -10 -07
Return of Writ -14 n/a -10

Following an election event, a time period is provided to add the names of voters sworn in at the polls to the voters list. With the adoption of many of the technological innovations proposed for discussion, it is further suggested that the provincial schedule be shortened by changing the Official Addition Day from 7 days after the event to 4 days. This change will not effect the time available to candidates to campaign in the election, or to make application for a recount.

3.3 Qualification Of Electors
The qualification of an elector also varies between the municipal and provincial Acts. The primary qualifications for an elector are age, citizenship and residency. The minimum age qualification of eighteen is standard for both Acts, with no further suggestion for change needed. However, the main differences in the two Acts are in the areas of citizenship and residency.

In the Elections Act, an elector must be a Canadian citizen, or a British subject who would have been a resident in the province prior to January 1, 1979. There is no similar requirement in the Municipal Elections Act. This can result in an elector being on one list and not another because of this difference in citizenship requirements. It is recommended that for an elector to be entitled to cast a vote in a provincial or municipal election, he or she should meet the most basic of all qualifications, citizenship. The Municipal Elections Act should then provide for a citizenship requirement where an elector must be a Canadian citizen or a British subject. The eligibility requirement which now exists only in the provincial Elections Act should be adopted municipally. It is proposed that the citizenship requirements in the Municipal Elections Act be standardized to the requirements outlined in the provincial Elections Act to achieve greater consistency between the two Acts and to facilitate a single registry of electors.

While the residency requirement is six months, there is a discrepancy in the reference date between the municipal and provincial Acts. In the provincial Elections Act, residency is based on six months from the timing of the issuing of the election Writ, while for municipal elections the date of the election is the reference date for determining residency.It is suggested that the residency requirement be standardized to a six month period calculated prior to the date of the election.

3.4 Student Electors
] Problems have been expressed over the domicile definitions for residency for student electors. In the municipal Act, a student elector must vote where he or she is domiciled, i.e. at the permanent address of his or her parents. Under the provincial Elections Act, a student has an option and may vote at a regular poll in the electoral district where he or she is duly registered and in attendance at a recognized educational institution, or by write-in ballot in the electoral district in which he or she would ordinarily reside.

The provisions in the two Acts could be standardized so students in a Municipal Election, who meet the residency requirements of six months, have the same choice now offered to students in provincial elections.

Additional improvements would see new Special Ballots, (to be discussed later in the Discussion Paper) be developed, to replace write-in ballots, for all student electors wishing to vote in the electoral district or municipality where their domicile is located when it is different than the school they are attending.

If adopted, these suggested changes would provide student electors with sufficient choice and enable the return of the results to be sent back to the proper polls, if they chose to vote in the electoral district where their parents reside.

3.5 Qualification for Candidates
Similar to the qualifications for an elector, candidate qualifications also vary between the present municipal and provincial Acts. Under the Municipal Elections Act there is no requirement that the mayor or councillor be a Canadian citizen. It is suggested that all future municipal candidates should meet the same basic citizenship requirements for electors.

3.6 Nomination
At the present time the deposit requirement for the nomination of a provincial candidate is set at $100, which is fully refundable after the election to all candidates who receive 50% of the votes cast for the winning candidate. The deposit requirements, as indicated from the survey of other provincial jurisdictions across Canada and federally, varies from nothing in Manitoba and Quebec to $200 in five other provinces and territories, up to $1,000 for a federal candidate. This money is held in trust until after the election and the necessary refunds are made. The deposits which do not qualify for refund go into the general revenues of the province.

There are presently no similar requirements for the nomination of a municipal candidate for either the post of mayor or a councillor. While it might be argued that this might impose too great a hardship on some municipal candidates, it is important to ensure the legitimacy and sincerity of a candidate. Discussion should be undertaken to consider whether nomination requirements should be standardized for all candidates to a $100.00 deposit, refundable when the candidate receives 50% of the vote of the winning candidate.

3.7 Withdrawal of a Candidate
Under the provincial legislation, a candidate may withdraw up to 48 hours before election day. Under the municipal legislation, a candidate may only withdraw up to the close of nominations which presently is 24 days before the day of the election. In the past, situations have arisen where, after the close of nominations, a candidate is aware of a situation which prevents him or her from remaining as a candidate prior to the election. However, under the present rules, even if it is known that the candidate will be unable, for whatever reason, to remain a candidate, his or her name must remain on the ballot.

It is suggested that a similar provision to the provision in the provincial Elections Act, which provides for the withdrawal of a candidate up to 48 hours before election day, could be adopted for all candidates of municipal elections.

3.8 Death of a Candidate
There are differences in the present legislation between the two Acts surrounding the death of a candidate. Presently, for provincial elections, when the death of a candidate occurs after nomination and on or before polling day, the election is automatically countermanded and a new polling date is set. This provision provides those electors who supported that candidate time to find and support another candidate, who will represent their concerns.

Under the present Municipal Elections Act, the death of a candidate results in the loss of representation for those electors who supported that candidate. However, the municipal Act does provide that, in the case where a candidate would be elected by acclamation for the post of mayor or councillor representing a ward, the election would be stopped and new nomination and polling dates would be set by the Municipal Electoral Officer. It is suggested that the procedures dealing with the death of a candidate be standardized, so that in all cases where a candidate dies after nomination day, the election would automatically be countermanded and a new nomination and polling date set to protect the right to representation for all electors.

3.9 Consistent Terminology
Another area which has caused confusion for electors is the difference in the use of some of the terminology between the two acts. The use of consistent terminology for both provincial and municipal elections would clarify the election process. As an example, an eligible elector is referred to as an elector in the provincial Elections Act and as an eligible voter in the Municipal Elections Act. New legislation should refer to “electors” in all processes leading up to and including the polling event, and once the ballot is cast, the individual becomes a “voter”.

The use of different titles such as the Chief Electoral Officer and Returning Officer for the provincial election or the Municipal Electoral Officer and Deputy Municipal Electoral Officer municipally also should be standardized, through the use of such common titles as Chief Electoral Officer and Returning Officer. Common terminology should be adopted for all election officials and for similar procedures and processes to make the legislation simpler and easier to understand.

3.10 Oaths, Forms and Lists
The present legislation requires that the Elections Branch stock and supply a large quantity of specified forms in various formats, as prescribed by both the municipal and provincial legislation. There are approximately 150 different forms and envelopes specified for a provincial election. These forms are used for such things as the swearing in of an elector, oaths for election workers etc. Under the Municipal Elections Act over 80 different forms are used. During the 1995 provincial and municipal elections in excess of $ 120,000 was spent in this area. The current legislative requirements often result in the creation of large supplies of forms, many of which go unused and end up being destroyed, because the format specifies that an election date or some other reference be printed on the form or envelope, preventing it from being used in another election. It is suggested to simplify and reduce the number and variety of oaths and forms required by the new legislation. The Elections Branch will be charged with the responsibility of standardizing and creating multipurpose forms instead of having a specific form for every possible situation. The use and distribution of many of the forms can be accomplished more and more with the use of technology.

A further improvement would direct the Chief Electoral Officer to provide for the re-design and simplification of all election forms. All new forms will use common every day language so that they are clear and easy to understand by all election workers.

Legislative amendments should be drafted with an eye on the future, and not be so restrictive as to prevent the effective use of new technologies in the recording and documentation of election activities, which is presently totally paper based. Faxes and other innovations are slowly achieving legal standing and should be used where practical in the administration of elections. At the present time, the format of the list and the procedures surrounding its distribution is set out in the legislation. In future, it will be desirable to distribute lists electronically to all political parties and returning officers, especially the Registry of Electors, which will still be supported with a paper copy. Over time with the advancement of technology, an electronic copy, whether provided on disk or by a network or by other means, may only be provided. Therefore, the new legislation should set out the requirement to provide a copy of the Registry, but not the means by which it will be done.

In the same way, time frames will continue to change and the legislation should be adapted to facilitate these changes. A list, which took weeks to prepare years ago, in 1995 only took a few days to prepare and distribute. With the use of a continuous Registry, the list may be available in minutes. For subsequent elections, the registry could be available instantaneously, allowing for real time revisions, indicating advance poll voting and capturing electors as they cast their ballot on election day, and making post election additions for electors that are sworn in.

3.11 Official Election Advertising
The provincial legislation specifies five different ads be placed in at least one newspaper circulated in the electoral district. These ads include: the Proclamation, establishing the date of election; the grant of poll, indicating the location of the polling station and the names of candidates; notice of advance poll providing the location, hours and date of the advance poll; public notice to electors, advising electors to verify their names are correct on the list of electors; and notice of revision advising electors of the revision process. Under the municipal Act only the notice of election and the grant of poll are advertised. Such detailed ads as the grant of poll, with the detailed legal descriptions are costly to publish and are not well received or understood by the general public.

The present requirements for official election advertising could be standardized and simplified, to present a more user friendly format, by using simpler language, and more modern advertising techniques.

The future of new technology to contact the elector directly in the language of his or her choice would greatly reduce the requirements for formal advertising of such things as poll descriptions and notices of elections. Over time it is envisaged that each individual elector will be sent a post card providing him or her with all the necessary election information to inform the elector where and when to vote. Formal advertising can serve as a reminder to the elector to look for a card in the mail, containing all the required information the elector would need on his or her poll, as well as the returning officer’s name, phone number and office location and reinforcing the upcoming date of the election.


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