Time ticking down for expat voters, chief electoral officer says
Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault holds a news conference to discuss Election Canada's services to electors for the upcoming election, in Ottawa, Ontario, Tuesday, September 17, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Fred Chartrand)
OTTAWA -- Voters living outside of Canada should register soon to ensure they can participate in the coming federal election, says Canada's chief electoral officer.
Expat voters' applications must be received by Elections Canada one week before the election, but Stephane Perrault says voters living abroad must also account for the time it takes for an application to be mailed, processed, a ballot sent out, and to mail a ballot back to Canada.
Considering all that, would-be voters outside the country should register within the next week to 10 days.
Elections Canada will not accept ballots it receives later than 6 p.m. Eastern time on Oct. 21.
In January, the Supreme Court ruled that Canadians living outside the country have the right to vote in federal elections, no matter how long they have been away.
The case was brought by two Canadians who were barred from voting in the 2011 election because of legislation passed in 1993, which had been only loosely enforced up to that point, banning Canadians who had lived outside the country for more than five years from voting in Canadian elections.
Elections Canada had previously estimated about 30,000 Canadians living outside the country would vote in the coming election, up from about 11,000 in the 2015 election.
"So far, I can say that we're just above 20,000 (people) who have registered," Perrault said Tuesday.
"At this point, it seems the numbers are what we thought they would be, but it may of course change."
Perrault noted that votes of Canadians living abroad will be counted in the ridings where they last resided in Canada.
"We are tracking the numbers, we know where they are being registered, and if there are any anomalies that appear we will be following up and can refer to the (Commissioner of Canadian Elections) as necessary," he said. The commissioner, who heads an agency distinct from Elections Canada, enforces election rules.
During his press conference, Perrault also discussed measures Elections Canada is taking to ensure both the security of the voting itself and information on when and where voting will take place.
The chief electoral officer said the use of purely paper ballots at the federal level means "the results cannot be hacked, and there is a paper trail to go back and do recounts if that is required."
He said Elections Canada continues its co-operation with Canadian security agencies -- particularly the Communications Security Establishment, which is in charge of national cybersecurity.
But, he said, "no one can claim their IT system is safe from all interference."
Perrault said the agency's efforts to monitor social media for misinformation on the voting process is "more robust" now than in 2015. He added a lot of false claims about the election's mechanics that spread on the internet are simply mistakes.
"It's not nefarious, necessarily. Our goal isn't to distinguish between what might be mis- or disinformation, our goal is to make sure the correct information is available to Canadians."
Throughout, Perrault expressed a high degree of confidence in the procedures Elections Canada has set up to monitor disinformation on social media and secure the election process.
"I sleep very well," he said.