Government introduces legislation to support safe, secure and accessible voting during the pandemic

Backgrounder

On December 10, 2020, the Government introduced legislation that would temporarily supplement provisions of the Canada Elections Act (the Act) to provide more flexibility to Elections Canada for the safe administration of an election during the pandemic. If passed, the special measures will provide Elections Canada with additional tools to ensure that—in spite of the pandemic—elections can be held in a safe and effective manner in which electors are given unprecedented opportunities to cast their ballot.

The amendments include:

  • a three-day polling period with eight hours of voting on Saturday and Sunday, and 12 hours of voting on the Monday. This amendment aims to facilitate physical distancing at polling station;
  • a 13 day period prior to the beginning of polling to facilitate the administration of the vote in long-term care facilities and in which persons living with disabilities reside. This aims to ensure senior citizens and our most vulnerable have more opportunities to safely exercise their democratic rights;
  • increased adaptation powers for the Chief Electoral Officer for the purposes of ensuring the health and safety of electors and election workers in a pandemic-specific framework;
  • measures to improve access to mail-in voting for all Canadians in several ways including the installation of mail reception boxes at every polling location and allowing for the receipt of online applications for mail-in ballots.

The legislative measures would be temporary and would only apply to an election called 90 days after Royal Assent. These special legislative measures would cease to be in effect 6 months - or at an earlier date determined by the CEO - after a notice by the Chief Electoral Officer in the Canada Gazette that indicates the measures are no longer necessary in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This notice would only be issued following consultation with the Chief Public Health Officer.

These temporary legislative amendments complement and build on recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer in his Special Report on voting during a pandemic and will further ensure voting remains accessible.

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