Summary of event preparations by fiscal year
Preparations for the 2017 Provincial General Election, in the form of preliminary budgeting, planning and research, began immediately following the 2013 Provincial General Election. Elections BC used lessons learned reviews with staff and stakeholders to identify the successes from 2013 that could be replicated and to identify where improvements could be made.
The following major event preparations and activities contributed to the successful delivery of the scheduled 2017 Provincial General Election and were undertaken by Elections BC in addition to planning for and delivering eight on-demand events during this time (three by-elections, two recall petitions, two initiative petitions and a plebiscite). Elections BC also assumed the role of administering the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act shortly before the general local elections held in 2014.
- Reviewed and identified new electoral geography products and services.
- Concluded the competitive process to select Elections BC’s external provider of Information Technology (IT) and Geographical Information System (GIS) technical support.
- Initiated a review and update of forms and guides used for all electoral events.
- Supported the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission with technology, expertise and other resources.
- Finalized Elections BC’s enumeration strategy and overall plan to register voters throughout B.C. in the lead-up to the 2017 Provincial General Election.
- Initiated the design and development of blended learning programs for district electoral officers and election officials, combining face-to-face instruction with eLearning.
- Began system enhancements to modernize and streamline the voting process, including using voter look-up (VLUP) technology in the voting place and automating the marking of voting books (to indicate which voters voted during the advance voting period).
- Initiated a project to engage with youth through grants to post-secondary student teams working on ideas to boost youth participation in elections.
- Developed an outreach strategy in consultation with youth organizations and other partners to inform a province-wide youth awareness campaign for the 2017 Provincial General Election.
- Analyzed voter participation trends and patterns to improve logistical planning in the field.
- Successfully piloted voter look-up (VLUP) technology and automated marking of voting books in the Vancouver-Mount Pleasant and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain by-elections.
- Conducted a competitive process to select Elections BC’s advertising agency of record.
- Implemented new electoral boundaries into Elections BC systems.
- Began redistribution of voting areas throughout the province based on new electoral district boundaries.
- Hired and trained six regional field officers (RFOs)who provide direct support to district electoral officers and their staff.
- Developed RegBC, a tablet application for enumerators to register and update voters and track enumeration progress.
- Building on the successful 2016 by-elections pilot, further enhanced voter look-up (VLUP) technology to meet new legislated requirements prescribed by Election Act amendments (Bill 20).
- Implemented voter look-up technology for vote by mail and voting in the district electoral office to reduce administrative errors and provide reliable end-to-end tracking of voting packages.
- Developed a secure download service to facilitate authorized access to voters list information by candidates and political parties.
- Implemented a redesigned Elections BC website to improve user experience and increase ease of access to electoral event information.
- Developed a series of web-based applications to deliver geography services.
- Automated the creation of geography map products.
- Developed an online “Where to Vote” application for voters to identify their assigned or closest voting place.
- Updated the correspondence tracking system used for interactions with the public and other stakeholders.
District electoral officer (DEO) support and training
- Filled all vacant district electoral officer and deputy district electoral officer positions.
- Launched DEO Desktop, a web-based communications platform and repository of procedures, forms, and other reference information used by RFOs, DEOs, DDEOs and their office staff to administer the general election.
- Launched eLearning modules for district electoral officers and election officials.
- Delivered election readiness training to district electoral officers and deputy district electoral officers blending eLearning with face-to-face workshops.
- Worked with district electoral officers to finalize plans for establishing district electoral offices, recruiting, scheduling and training office staff and election officials, and identifying potential voting places.
- Established the “Youth at the Booth” program, which worked with school districts to recruit local high school students as election officials.
- Conducted financial agent training sessions around the province.
- Developed and delivered training for election advertising sponsors.
- Liaised with First Nations groups, local health authorities, the Canadian Forces and Coast Guard, correctional facilities, and other groups to promote opportunities to register and vote during the general election.
- Partnered with CIVIX for the delivery of Democracy Bootcamp and Student Vote day to encourage youth participation in the general election.
- Completed a province-wide mailing to all registered voters reminding them to update their voter registration and informing them of changes to the province’s electoral districts.
- Identified community outreach locations and areas suitable for door-to-door enumeration.
- Established 49 enumeration offices, including the installation of communication and information technology.
- Provided information to remote locations by sending pamphlets, posters and other election materials.
Other event preparatory activities
- Finalized event plans for the 2017 Provincial General Election, including Elections BC’s public awareness communications campaign.
- Developed an election official-assisted telephone voting process to serve voters with disabilities who were otherwise unable to vote independently during the general election.
- Implemented new accessibility criteria for voting place selection.
- Deregistered constituency associations associated with previous electoral districts.
- Registered constituency associations under the new electoral district boundaries.
- Recruited and trained additional staff at Elections BC headquarters to support district electoral officers, candidates, political parties and advertising sponsors, and to respond to public inquiries.
- Established the remaining 40 district electoral offices, including the installation of communication and information technology.
- Acquired, packed, and distributed election supplies to district electoral offices.
- Contracted with vendors to provide services and equipment to Elections BC headquarters and district electoral offices, including mail and courier services, desktop publishing and printing, learning management systems, telecommunications, computers, multi-function devices, and on-call technical support.
2015 Electoral Boundaries Redistribution
After every second general election an independent and non-partisan electoral boundaries commission is established to propose changes to the area, boundaries and names of the electoral districts of B.C. This ensures that B.C. voters continue to have effective representation as demographics change. Serving on the three-person commission were Justice Thomas Melnick (Chair), Beverley Busson, O.B.C, and Keith Archer, Ph.D.
The 2015 Commission submitted its final proposals to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly on September 24, 2015. The Legislative Assembly voted to approve the proposals and on November 17, 2015 passed the Electoral Districts Act, establishing 87 electoral districts. This increased the number of electoral districts in B.C. from 85. The new electoral district boundaries came into force on April 11, 2017, the day the 2017 Provincial General Election was called.
The 2015 Commission recommended changes to 48 of the existing 85 electoral districts and the addition of new electoral districts in Richmond and Surrey. Boundaries were substantially redrawn in both these areas with the goal of redistributing the population relatively equally and maintaining communities of interest to the extent possible.
Further details about the 2015 Electoral Boundaries Redistribution are available in the final report of the British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission, available at elections.bc.ca/bc-ebc.
New for 2017
Elections BC implemented a significant number of administrative and process changes in the 2017 Enumeration and General Election to improve service and enhance efficiency.
In preparation for the 2017 Enumeration, Elections BC developed RegBC, an application that allows enumerators to register and update voter information quickly and securely. Tablets installed with RegBC were issued to enumerators throughout the province. Tablets were password protected and locked after a few minutes of inactivity.
In previous enumerations, enumerators carried paper voter registration materials in plastic binders when conducting registration drives and door-to-door activities. By carrying the same information in digital format, tablets offered clear improvements. Binders are heavy, not weather resistant, and not secure. Paper forms require that staff scan completed forms for data entry and processing into the Electoral Information System (EIS). Tablets offer a lightweight, secure, digital solution to these issues. In addition to the practical and security benefits of using tablets, information input to RegBC remained as digital data, representing a best practice in data management.
Technology in the voting place
To meet challenges experienced in the 2009 and 2013 elections, Elections BC initiated a project to use technology in voting places to look up voters, print labels containing voter information for voting documents, and create a voter strike-off record to automate flagging of advance voters in general voting books. When the Election Act was amended in 2015 to require Elections BC to provide candidates with lists of voters who voted following each day of advance voting, this project became mandatory.
The proprietary look-up application (VLUP), developed by Elections BC, and associated technology were piloted in the 2016 by-elections in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. This technology was then used province-wide for the general election in 2017.
Laptops, label printers and bar code scanners were used to automate administrative processes for advance and absentee voting. Election officials used laptops and VLUP to process registered voters and create a strike-off record of who had voted. Election officials could also register voters or update voter information using VLUP. Scanners were used to scan a voter’s Where to Vote card to quickly find the voter’s information in VLUP, or officials could search for a voter using a drivers licence number, voter name, address or date of birth. Labels containing voter information were then printed and were affixed to advance voting certificates, certification envelopes and voting books.
VLUP also automated decisions and provided guidance to election officials on how to administer voting. For example, it instructed them to issue an ordinary ballot or a write-in ballot to the voter, depending on the type of voting being administered. It would also show the voter’s electoral district and voting area based on the voter’s residential address. This improved process reduced the number of ballots set aside due to election official error, from 6.9% of absentee ballots in 2013 to 1% of absentee ballots in 2017.
Capturing participation information electronically at advance voting allowed Elections BC to provide candidates with a list of voters who voted after each day of advance voting in each electoral district, and to automatically produce flagged voting books for General Voting Day. These voting books showed who had voted during the advance voting period and at absentee voting opportunities prior to the close of advance voting. In past elections, this work was done manually by district electoral office staff, and was an extremely labour intensive process.
Introducing technology also led to efficiencies during preparations for final count. District electoral office staff scanned the labels affixed to certification envelopes to quickly find voter information in the Voting Results System (VRS). In past elections office staff had to manually enter data to search for a voter in VRS.
Using VLUP reduced the time needed to process voters by 30%.
District electoral officers (DEOs) and election officials reacted favourably to these new tools and the administrative efficiencies they provided. Elections BC considers the introduction of technology a success and will continue to enhance and expand its capabilities in future elections.
Digital mapping tools
iMap is a web-based mapping application built on the Internet Mapping Framework 2.0 (IMF2). The application is supported and hosted by DataBC, and allows users to view map data from sources across the B.C. government and other public sector agencies. Using the iMap application as a base, Elections BC created a custom workflow that allowed DEOs to digitally identify geographic regions where door-to-door enumeration activities would occur within their electoral district. DEOs also used iMap to preview voting area boundaries and propose changes before the boundaries were finalized, and assign voters to their geographic voting area.
The online and collaborative nature of iMap allowed Elections BC headquarters staff to support DEOs with these tasks in real time.
Elections BC used iMap to develop the British Columbia Electoral District Explorer (BC-EDE).
BC-EDE, accessible through the Elections BC website, allowed voters to easily find their electoral district and explore its boundaries.
These tools reduced the need for paper map products and streamlined the communication of electoral geography information between DEOs and Elections BC headquarters staff. Using iMap also allowed Elections BC to publish spatial data in accordance with the provincial government’s open data policy and format the data to government standards. Given the increased efficiency, improved service to voters, and privacy and security improvements associated with iMap, Elections BC anticipates using this tool in future elections.
Elections BC is committed to providing accessible voting opportunities for all eligible voters. A new special voting opportunity, election official-assisted telephone voting, was introduced in the 2017 Provincial General Election. For the first time in a provincial general election in B.C. voters with disabilities could vote by telephone. This option was available to voters who were unable to visit a voting place or vote independently.
A dedicated team at Elections BC headquarters administered telephone voting to more than 1,000 voters. The introduction of telephone voting was a success and Elections BC will offer this option to voters with disabilities in future elections.
Voting area sizes
Electoral districts are subdivided into voting areas. Unlike electoral districts, voting areas are created by Elections BC for administering elections. On General Voting Day, a voting officer and voting clerk administer voting at a voting station for each voting area. Each voting station has a ballot box associated with it. The Election Act requires this staffing model, and establishes that voting areas normally represent 400 registered voters.
Following the 2013 Provincial General Election, Elections BC reviewed this administrative model to look for efficiencies and cost savings. Each successive election saw more registered voters, resulting in more voting areas, more election officials and increased costs. At the same time, changing voter behaviour clearly showed more voters were voting at advance and absentee voting opportunities, and fewer at their assigned voting station on General Voting Day. Between 2005 and 2013, the average number of voters served per voting station decreased from 168 to 121. On General Voting Day, most voting stations were operating at 40% capacity, and in some districts, finding sufficient voting places to accommodate all voting areas was challenging.
Elections BC evaluated voter wait times based on actual “time of day” voting patterns to assess how much voting area sizes could be increased without compromising accessibility. The analysis showed that voting patterns vary across the province based on geography. In densely populated urban electoral districts, voters tend to vote uniformly throughout General Voting Day, whereas in commuter districts, voters are more likely to vote between 5 and 8 p.m., on their way home from school or work.
Using the Chief Electoral Officer’s authority under the Election Act, voting area sizes were increased on a trial basis in the 2016 by-elections in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, a commuter district, was redistributed under the new model to a maximum of 600 registered voters per voting area. Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, an urban district, was redistributed to a maximum of 700 registered voters per voting area. This reduced staffing and material costs by 38% in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain and by 49% in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.
Elections BC found that voting area sizes could be increased substantially without negatively impacting accessibility and service to voters. Based on this success, the new administrative model was adopted for the general election in 2017. In rural areas of the province where the distance to a voting place is a concern, voting areas were maintained at a maximum of 400 voters to ensure continued accessibility.
The new model led to significant cost savings and did not negatively impact wait times for voters or election official workloads, even with the highest voter turnout in a provincial election in B.C. since 2005. Elections BC estimates that as a result of this change, staffing costs were reduced by around four million dollars when compared to the estimated staffing cost had voting area sizes not been increased.
Election advertising on the Internet
Elections BC issued a new interpretation of election advertising on the Internet in August 2016. Under this interpretation, election messages transmitted over the Internet are election advertising only if they meet the applicable definition of election advertising and have, or would normally have, a placement cost. For example, banner ads, pre-roll videos or ads on Facebook or other social media sites are considered election advertising, because they have placement costs. Messages without placement costs on the Internet, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media posts, YouTube videos, emails and websites are not election advertising. This change followed an internal review of Elections BC’s policies regarding election advertising on the Internet and similar changes made by other election management bodies in Canada, including Elections Canada.
The Election Act restricts election advertising on General Voting Day. In past elections, this has meant that social media posts by candidates and political parties were not allowed on General Voting Day. Under the new interpretation, and following legislative change in 2015 that allowed “get-out-the-vote” messages by parties and candidates on General Voting Day, social media posts without a placement cost were permitted on General Voting Day for the 2017 Provincial General Election.
Following a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that individuals engaged in small-scale self-expression are not advertising sponsors under the Election Act, Elections BC issued new policies addressing handmade advertising. For the 2017 Provincial General Election, individuals who made their own election advertising materials on a small scale were no longer considered election advertising sponsors under the Election Act.
The Election Act gives effect to British Columbians’ right to vote in provincial elections by setting the framework for the provincial electoral process. Elections BC conducts provincial elections in accordance with its provisions.
In 2015, Bill 20 introduced a series of amendments to the Election Act that affected the conduct of the 2017 Provincial General Election.
General registration and close of the voters list
In previous general elections, the voters list remained open until the seventh day after the writs were issued. For the first time in a general election, general voter registration closed at 11:59:59 p.m. on Writ Day, April 11. The voters list was produced the following day and included any registrations received on Writ Day. The earlier close of the voters list was required to accommodate the earlier advance voting period also introduced for the first time in a general election in 2017. Any voters who did not register by the close of registration on April 11, and as a result were not on the voters list, could still register when they voted.
Bill 20 extended the advance voting period from four to six days, days 18-19 and 22-25 of the election period. Advance voting days in 2017 were April 29 and 30 and May 3 through May 6. Not all advance voting places were open on every day of the advance voting period, but at least one advance voting place was open in each electoral district on each day of advance voting.
Voters lists with participation
Bill 20 introduced a requirement for Elections BC to provide candidates with lists of voters who voted after each day of advance voting and on General Voting Day.
For advance voting, Elections BC used VLUP to capture voter strike-offs and then provided this data to candidates through a secure download service.
On General Voting Day, election officials recorded participation information on “bingo” sheets which were shared with candidate representatives throughout the day.
Secure download service
To facilitate the provision of lists of voters who voted after each day of advance voting to candidates, Elections BC developed a secure download service that allowed candidates to access this information digitally. During the 2016 by-elections, this information was provided to candidates on secure USB drives, but this was determined to be inefficient for the larger scale of a provincial general election.
Candidates were provided access credentials upon receiving their certificate of candidacy that allowed them to log in to the secure download service and access the participation information for their electoral district after each day of advance voting. The secure download service ensured that candidates were privately and securely provided with voter participation information to support their campaigning ahead of General Voting Day.
60-day pre-campaign period eliminated
In previous general elections, expenses related to election advertising or campaigning conducted by or on behalf of a candidate, constituency association, or registered political party incurred during a 60-day pre-campaign period were considered election expenses. Bill 20 eliminated the 60-day pre-campaign period, so election expenses incurred before Writ Day were not subject to election expenses limits.
Fundraising communications expenses not subject to limits
Expenses related to fundraising communications were added to the list of election expenses under section 203 of the Election Act that are not subject to election expenses limits.
Online get-out-the-vote messages permitted on General Voting Day
Section 233 of the Election Act, which specifies exclusions to the general prohibition against election advertising on General Voting Day, was amended to add messages transmitted to the public on the Internet for the sole purpose of encouraging voters to vote. These messages were permitted on General Voting Day for the 2017 election.
In previous elections, the ordinary nomination period began when the election was called and ended on day 10 at 1 p.m. (Pacific time). Bill 20 amended the Election Act so that the ordinary nomination period ended at 1 p.m. (Pacific time) on day 7. This change was due to the earlier start of advance voting, also introduced through Bill 20, which necessitated an earlier close of nominations to allow sufficient time to print ordinary ballots.
For the 2017 election, all individuals vouching for a voter were required to show identification. Family members and those with personal care authority were previously excluded from this requirement.
Additional legislative changes were introduced when the Miscellaneous Statutes (Signed Statement) Amendment Act received Royal Assent on March 4, 2016. This Act amended several sections of the Election Act that required solemn declarations by replacing the requirement with a signed statement.