Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick
Legislative Committees
Home | Français

5. Other Changes to the Electoral Process

The need for changes to other general administrative procedures so as to simplify and improve the overall electoral process has been identified as follows:

5.1 Nomination
At the present time, the number of eligible electors required in support of a candidate’s nomination both provincially and municipally is set at ten. This low number of signatures may not clearly demonstrate a sufficient level of support in the community for the individual to qualify as a candidate. A survey of other jurisdictions has indicated that the level of support, in the form of signatures on the nomination papers, ranges from a low of four in Saskatchewan to one hundred signatures in both Manitoba and Quebec. It is suggested that consideration be given to establishing the requirement for the number of signatures in support of a candidate’s nomination be increased to one hundred electors at the provincial level.

However, it is recognized that this may cause difficulty for candidates wishing to run in municipal elections in smaller communities. If the requirement is increased to one hundred signatures as a basic level, a lower requirement should be considered for smaller communities. Therefore, it is suggested, the requirement for the number of signatures in support of the candidate’s nomination be established at one hundred for municipal elections, where the population in a municipality is greater than 10,000, and at ten signatures where the population is less than 10,000.

5.2 Ballots
All ballots should be revised to simplify the process for electors, while ensuring that the democratic principle of one elector one vote is maintained and protected.

5.2.1 General
There have been a number of requests to put party logos on the ballot opposite the party candidate’s name to aid in the identification of the particular candidate by an elector who would have difficulty in reading a name. It is suggested that the party logos for registered political parties be added to the ballot for provincial elections to assist some electors in candidate identification. This would require the registration of the Party Logos in the Registry of Political Parties maintained by the Chief Electoral Officer.

5.2.2 Use of Voting Machines
The use of voting machines is becoming more common in capturing poll results electronically. The advantages of voting machines lie in the areas of speed, simplicity, security and administrative control over the voting process. Electronic voting machines are being used now in Canada, mainly at the municipal level, in such communities as Hull, Quebec; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and soon in Timmins, Ontario.

This equipment is certified for use in the following states of California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington, and are pending certification in several other states. It is suggested that the Chief Electoral Officer be provided with the discretion to test the voting machines at mobile and advance polls on a pilot basis, and report to government on progress of its acceptance by electors.

5.2.3 Clarification Of Spoiled And Rejected Ballots
A number of concerns have arisen around the number of spoiled and rejected ballots from recent elections. It is suggested that the Chief Electoral Officer could provide for the placement of prominent notices on all privacy screens at voting booths to inform electors, who may have accidentally spoiled their ballot by marking them incorrectly, that they have the right to return to the poll clerk and request a second ballot.

5.2.4 Special (Write-In) Ballots
The use of write-in ballots has also been an area for concern. It has proven to be a problem especially for the elderly or others who are obliged to vote at mobile polls, because it is difficult, for some to write in the name of the candidate of their choice. If an election official or an administrator at the facility assists the elector, the elector loses the right to a secret ballot. It is anticipated that the Elections Branch will be able to create Special Ballots after the close of nominations which will have the name of all candidates printed on the ballot. These ballots would be used in all other voting situations, with the exception of advance and regular polls. It is suggested that the Chief Electoral Officer revise the write-in ballots format by preprinting all candidate names on the ballot and give it the designation of Special Ballot for use other than at advance and regular polls.

5.2.5 Adaptation of Ballots For The Visually Impaired
The blind and the visually impaired have special needs at the polls to make the electoral process, in particular, the right to a secret ballot, accessible to them. It is suggested that the Chief Electoral Officer provide adaptations for the ballot to assist the visually impaired. A template with Braille text and specially cut notches could be used by the blind elector in locating the name of the candidate of his or her choice so he or she could vote unassisted if desired.

5.3 Recounts
A number of problems have been raised over recent recounts after municipal elections. The need to count all ballots in a recount situation has been questioned several times, especially where the present requirements dictate that all ballots for all candidates must be counted. This current practice of counting all ballots can greatly extend the time taken to arrive at a result. It is suggested for discussion whether, in the case of a municipal election, the Judge in charge of a recount should be given greater discretion in deciding whether only the ballots for the leading candidates or all ballots need to be recounted.

It is also suggested that a new form be designed for the Judge to record the results of a municipal recount.It is proposed that this be considered in the redesign of all forms used for elections as highlighted earlier.

5.4 Polls

5.4.1 Poll Hours - Advance Polls
Currently the hours of operation of the advance polls are from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM, on Friday and 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Saturday for a municipal election, and are from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM on Saturday and Monday for a provincial election. This difference in advance poll hours has lead to confusion for a number of voters. It is suggested that the same hours be set for municipal and provincial elections for the advance polls to 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, on Saturdays and Mondays.

5.4.2 Poll Hours - Federal Polls
In the recent Federal electoral reform proposals, the recommendation has been made to have staggered voting hours across the country combined with special provisions for the counting of ballots. The federal proposal for polling hours for New Brunswick are from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM and to start the counting of the vote at 10:00 PM local time which would allow for the preliminary results to be available at 10:30 PM. There might be some merit in keeping all polling hours the same for all elections, municipal, provincial and federal.

5.4.3 Poll Hours - Regular Polls
However, it is suggested that the current polling hours of 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, for both the provincial and municipal elections be maintained with counting of results to commence immediately after the close of the poll. While not providing uniformity with proposed Federal polling hours, the status quo would continue to provide most workers three clear hours after work to cast their ballots.

5.4.4 Location of Polls
A prime concern has been and remains to remove all barriers to access at the polls for all electors. Government would like to ensure all barriers to accessibility are eliminated for both advance and regular polls. This should be a key determinant in the location of polls.

It is suggested that over time at the discretion of the Chief Electoral Officer, the same Deputy Returning Officer could administer more than one poll at the same location. This provision would allow the Deputy Returning Officer to ensure that common polling practices are followed at all polls under his or her jurisdiction, through the merging of polling locations. This could also provide for the future use of electronic voting, allowing one machine to serve a number of polls.

5.4.5 Removal Of Urban - Rural Distinctions
If the proposed registry, expanded provisions for revision, and improved swearing in provisions are enacted, the distinctions between urban and rural polls will have been effectively removed. The combined effect of these suggestions is to remove all distinctions between urban and rural polls.

5.4.6 Advance Polls at the Returning Officer’s Office
The Chief Electoral Officer would like to provide for the holding of an advance poll in the Returning Officer’s Office. This would allow for the present limited time frame for a regular advance poll over a longer period providing more access to the elector. It is therefore proposed to provide for the holding of an advance poll in the Returning Officer’s Office.

5.4.7 Mobile Polls
A number of problems have been expressed involving the omission of extended care units from the definition of mobile poll and the secrecy provided to the electors, who reside there. It is suggested that the definition of a mobile poll be amended to include extended care units in hospitals. It is further suggested the Chief Electoral Officer could protect the right of secrecy for those electors, who are only able to vote at a mobile poll by the use of Special Ballots.

5.4.8 Selection of Poll Workers
There have also been some instances where the interests of some election officials, including clerks, deputy returning officers and poll clerks have been questioned because they are immediate family members or relatives of candidates, both at provincial and municipal elections. It is suggested that the qualifications for election officers be clarified to indicate that a poll worker could not work at a poll where an immediate family member or relative would be running as a candidate.

5.4.9 Poll Layout
There have been incidences reported where electors have been impeded in their access to cast their ballot. It is suggested that the Chief Electoral Officer develop rules for the layout of all polls. The design of the poll would provide for clear, unrestricted access to the poll by all electors, and the positioning of scrutineers will be such that they do not impede or influence the polling process.

The use of modern technology may not always be positive. The use of cellular telephones and other devices are on the increase, and can be disruptive in the setting of a polling station. It is therefore suggested that the use of cellular telephones and other electronic communication devices, not in control of the Chief Electoral Officer, will not be permitted in the polling station. This would not impact on party scrutineers located outside of the polling station.

5.4.10 Media At The Polls
The media, while not permitted under the act to be at the poll, want to provide their audience with photo opportunities of the major candidates casting their ballot. Therefore it is suggested that the media would only be permitted in the poll for the casting of the ballot for the leaders of the major parties and mayoralty candidates. Once the ballots have been cast the media will be required to leave the poll, so that the polling process can continue free of distraction.

5.5 By-elections
Currently, for municipal elections, by-elections are not called in the third year of the mandate. For the provincial elections, by-elections are not called after three and a half years have elapsed from the previous election. It is suggested that consideration be given to reviewing the possibility that a provincial by- election would not be called after three years into a mandate rather than the current three and a half years, and that the time period within which a by-election is called following the declaration of a vacancy be extended to one year from the current six months.

5.6 Adoption of New Technology
The administration of elections has changed greatly over time, from the very early periods when all poll lists and oaths were written long hand, to the use of typewriters and carbon paper, to computers and photocopiers. Election processes have certainly benefited from the adoption of new levels of technology.

The use of computers at the polls is now becoming more wide spread and accepted in many jurisdictions. One of the major constraints is in the training of election workers in the use of the technology. However, as computer technology becomes more and more pervasive in our everyday lives, and as more election workers use it in other areas, the general level of abilities will continue to increase.

It is suggested that the Elections Branch be provided the flexibility to look at and evaluate the suitability of adopting new technology, such as electronic voting machines, as it becomes available.

Electronic voting machines, as mentioned earlier, are an example of an innovative technology which is becoming more widely used in North America. The use of voting machines where feasible in place of special (write-in) ballots and for advance polls should be considered. Another feature of the electronic system is that it can be used in the preparation of ballots, which can then be printed by conventional means. Finally, the machine would be used to read the ballots and compile the polling result.

Through Service New Brunswick (SNB), the Government has been widely recognized as a leader among other jurisdictions in the adoption of new technology. It is suggested that the Chief Electoral Officer identify and review those election functions which potentially could be provided from these centers, such as a site for advance polls, or as an office where an elector can go to have his or her name put on the continuous Registry of Electors. In the future, an elector may be able to go to one of SNB’s kiosks in a local shopping mall to review and make application for the revision of his or her information contained on the Continuous Registry of Electors.

It is therefore suggested that the legislation be reviewed to allow for the testing of these new types of technologies so they could be adopted as they are proven appropriate.

5.7 Candidate Advertising

5.7.1 Proximity of the Polling Station
There have been numerous complaints in the past on the display of advertising at the polls by candidates. It is suggested that the Chief Electoral Officer have greater discretion in controlling both the display of signage and the use of other electronic forms of advertising by candidates. It is further suggested that all loud speakers, and other forms of advertising be restricted such that they could not be heard or seen within 100 feet of the property on which the poll is located on advance poll or election day.

5.7.2 Blackout Period
There have also been problems reported with advertising during the legislated blackout period. The federal blackout period is presently 24 hours, which caused confusion for some candidates. It is suggested that the establishment of a blackout period of 24 hours preceding polling day would be a standard for all elections. The blackout period would include all mass media communication such as radio, television, newspaper, voice mail and other technologies as they become available.

5.8Controverted Elections Act
An associated Act of the legislature, the Controverted Elections Act, establishes the offences and penalties for corrupt and illegal practices or failure to comply with the provisions of the Elections Act. The select committee should examine whether the candidate should be held responsible for all infractions under the Elections Act by election officials. Based on various incidents during recent elections and given the scope of the proposals contained in this paper, it is suggested that the committee review and propose appropriate changes to the Controverted Elections Act.

5.9 Office of the Chief Electoral Office
In the other provinces the office of the Chief Electoral Officer resides under the Legislative Assembly, many appointing the Chief Electoral Officer through the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. In others, the appointment is also made by the Legislative Assembly. New Brunswick is unique in that, while the appointment is made by Order in Council, the Office is a branch of the Department of Municipalities, Culture and Housing reporting to the Minister. This situation is based on the fact that New Brunswick is the only province which undertakes both provincial and municipal elections at the provincial level. Being lodged in a line department, particularly the department with responsibilities for municipal affairs offers certain advantages and cost efficiencies. Human resources can be used from other areas of the department, not only for the operation of the municipal elections itself but for other aspects of elections administration. For instance, the municipal services representatives now play a key role as Deputy Municipal Electoral Officers in municipal elections. On the other hand, these advantages may still be available to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer if it resides under the administration of the Legislative Assembly. The whole issue of the appointment of the position of the Chief Electoral Officer should be discussed.

Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick
Email | Contacts |