Promise of three-day ballot surprises Canada’s Election Commission

Mary Wolf, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Canada’s electoral management body was surprised by the announcement this week that there could be major reforms in the way people vote, including the introduction of a three-day ballot.

The Confidence and Supply Agreement between the Liberals and the New Democrats, announced on Monday, said the government would work with Elections Canada to explore ways to make it easier for people to vote, including potentially extending Election Day to three days.

It comes weeks before Stephane Perrault, chief electoral officer, is set to submit a detailed report on the 2021 elections to Parliament, with recommendations for future improvements.

The Liberal-NDP agreement also stipulated that the government would explore improvements in how mail-in ballots were handled and consider allowing people to vote at any polling place in their constituency.

During the last election, some voters complained that their mailed votes were not counted because they did not arrive on time or got lost.

Elections Canada said in a statement that it had “no prior knowledge of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party’s commitments related to the agency’s mandate.”

Mr Perrault, who is in charge of Elections Canada, has been busy preparing his own recommendations for improvement.

“For any future changes to the (election) law, it will be important to take the time to carefully assess their potential impact on the administration of future elections,” said Matthew McKenna, a spokesperson for Elections Canada. He (Chief Election Officer) will be eager to discuss these potential changes with MPs and share his experience in running federal elections. »

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NDP Representative Blake Degarla, who won his Edmonton seat at the expense of the former riding Conservative MP after working hard to increase voter turnout in the county, said the three-day ballot would benefit many voters, including working-class people with jobs. Multiple who may struggle to find time to vote.

The expansion of the ballot is “appropriate given the size of our country,” he said, adding that many Canadians travel to work and may not return home on a single election day.

He added: “We have seen record abstentions.” We must fight abstentions in this country and restore confidence in our democratic institutions. »

In October 2020, Mr Perrault testified before a House of Commons committee regarding the extension of voting days in elections during the pandemic.

He told MPs that an entire weekend could be devoted to voting, but said it would be difficult to find large numbers of people at polling stations on Monday as well. He said some polling stations may not be available on Monday.

“Let’s say we have access to a school in a certain area over the weekend. We won’t be able to use it on Monday and we won’t be able to continue voting.

The Chief Elections Officer also suggested that pre-polling could take place on Thursday and Friday before the election weekend, so there are two days of pre-polling during the week.

Mr Perrault’s report to Parliament on the recent elections is expected to include proposals to prevent hate groups from obtaining tax breaks and lists of voters’ names and addresses by registering as political parties.

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The guarantees will make it more difficult for extremists to obtain benefits, including broadcasts earmarked for political parties.

Recommendations to make it easier for Indigenous voters to vote — after it was found that some First Nations did not have access to polling places on Election Day — will be included in a separate report on Canada’s election.

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