Ensuring Accuracy and Transparency in Vote Counting and Result Reporting
There are various safeguards in place to maintain the integrity of the federal electoral process, such as secure voting counts and result reporting. The custody of ballots and boxes is also closely monitored.
Votes Counted by HandThe counting of votes is performed by trained and compensated workers manually. The procedures to count these votes are outlined in the Canada Elections Act, which governs federal elections. Although Elections Canada does not use automatic ballot-counting machines, they are used successfully and securely by various other jurisdictions worldwide. The discretion of using technology to aid electoral processes is left to election administrators based on regional requirements. Representatives of candidates, along with other nominated observers, are allowed to view the manual counting of votes. Before the counting begins, no one is allowed inside or outside of the voting location. The election officer who counts the votes: Ensures that the total number of eligible voters who cast their vote is counted, Counts any spoilt ballots and seals them separately, Counts the unused ballots and seals them separately while they are still attached to the booklet, Ensures that the sum total of votes cast, spoilt ballots and unused ballots matches the number of ballots provided by the returning officer. In public view, the workers unveil each ballot and openly announce the named candidates on each ballot. The votes are tallied, noted and reported on paper before being provided to the returning officer managing elections for the particular constituency, who records the results using a reliable computer program. This result recording system transmits the information to the main office of Elections Canada, which is highly secure.
Reporting ResultsOn Election Day, our website (elections.ca) is repeatedly updated with the most recent vote counts as numbers come in from every one of the 338 ridings. If there is a large amount of special ballots received, the results may take several days after the election to become available since they take more time to be counted as compared to regular ballots.
Once the polls are closed, Elections Canada starts receiving vote counts from all the ridings across Canada. The initial vote counts begin appearing within 30 minutes of the polls closing. These are subsequently updated at regular intervals on the elections.ca website. Contingency arrangements are in position, including communicating results by phone, to counter any issue with local computer or internet services in a riding. A parallel system used by a non-profit group of media organizations, the Media Consortium, collects and publishes the election results. The consortium has a data stream of electoral outcomes that it passes on to chosen media outlets. The preliminary election night vote counts are preliminary and are not regarded as final until the validation process by the returning officer (RO) is performed. The initial outcomes indicate the total number of votes cast for each candidate, riding-wise, and are incomplete until the entire voting process is complete. Under the Canada Elections Act, local special ballots cannot be counted until polling stations close, and multiple integrity checks are made. These include confirmation that the voter submitted only one special ballot, and did not vote in-person as well. Depending on the number of local special ballots, this verification may take upward of 24 hours, which may affect the completion of initial results. Media outlets act independently of Elections Canada and may make presumptions based on incomplete preliminary results. Usually within a week following election day, the returning officer verifies the results along with the assistant returning officer, candidates and/or their representatives, and observers. The returning officer issues a certificate demonstrating the number of votes obtained by each candidate in the riding, per the Act's provisions. After the results have been confirmed, the returning officer provides the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) with the original certificate and sends copies to the candidates and/or their representatives. The verified results are published on the Elections Canada website as they arrive. If the vote margins are low or a candidate believes that mistakes were made during counting, a new count may be conducted before a judge under certain circumstances. An application for a judicial recount must be submitted to the court within four days of the returning officer validating the results. Once the CEO receives the certificate, the official voting results are released, normally over a few months after the election day. In the case of by-elections, they are published within 90 days from election day. Official voting results include, by polling division, the number of votes cast for each candidate, the number of discounted ballots, names on final lists of eligible voters, and statistical data considered important by the CEO for publication. Any concerns about the regularity of an election are dealt with through the contested election process, excluding matters resolved through judicial recounts. After a candidate is declared elected, any eligible voter within the electoral constituency or any candidate in the electoral district may request a contested election before a judge, either in a provincial superior court or in the Federal Court.
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