AMCTO Election Express #3

We are back with our 3rd Election Express that will cover the issues of directly electing regional chairs and county wardens along with all things to do with communicating and reporting effectively before, during and after an election. Buckle up…this is a long one!

Direct Election of Regional Chairs and County Wardens 

The chairs of regional councils in Peel, York, Niagara and Simcoe (corrected from Oxford in original release), will be directly elected in the 2018 Municipal Election. This will hopefully assist in strengthening local government’s ability to serve the residents of their community.

Upper tier governments such as Dufferin and Wellington County have the option of moving towards direct election in 2018, but are not required.

So let’s see what might that mean for you as a Clerk?

Tips for holding direct election of Regional Chair and/or Regional Councillors 

The Region of Waterloo has directly elected its Regional Chair since 1997 and 8 Regional Councillors since 2000. The balance is made up from mayors of each of the seven area municipalities within the Region.

Where possible during the election process, it is important to work with the Clerk’s in your area municipalities. Collaboration is a key factor in running a successful municipal election despite the fact that the region and area municipalities pay their own costs for an election. It is common to see costs for items like joint ads being split among all the municipalities participating.

The regulations approved under the Municipal Elections Act state that “ranked ballot elections are not authorized for any office on the council of an upper-tier municipality unless they are authorized for all offices on the council of every lower-tier municipality within the upper-tier municipality”. So if all of the lower tiers have not approved the use of ranked ballots, the upper tier may not use this method.

Election Processes done by the Region:

  • Placing advertisements for nomination period (try to do with area municipalities);
  • Accepting of nomination papers by candidates for office of Regional Chair and directly elected Regional Councillor;
  • Provide campaign expense limits to candidates (require number of voters from area municipalities)
  • Prepare information package for registered candidates, including election guide from province, accessibility guide, maps, voters’ list (candidates to obtain from area municipalities), campaign expense estimate, sign by-law;
  • Prepare for question on ballot if approved by council;
  • Obtain voters’ list from area municipalities in order to certify candidates
  • Certify nomination papers, declare acclamations, where applicable;
  • Provide list of registered candidates to area municipalities for inclusion on the ballot – needs to be done within a prescribed timeline;
  • Establish compliance audit committee – consider a joint committee with area municipalities;
  • Receiving of financial statements following campaign period.

Election Processes done by the Area Municipality on behalf of the Region:

  • Deciding on voting method (i.e. electronic, internet, telephone, mail, etc.);
  • Setting up polling locations, securing contracts, setting hours, advance polls, etc.;
  • Hiring polling staff;
  • Printing of voters’ lists and voter identification cards;
  • Printing ballots;
  • School board elections (nomination papers, etc.);
  • Proxy voting.

Helpful Tips:

  • Try to work as much with area municipalities;
  • Examples include advertising and promotion of election, nomination period, notice of election, etc., compliance audit committee;
  • Determine how you will get results from area municipalities – be at their office on election night, monitor website, etc. – you require official results in order to declare Regional Chair elected (cumulative totals);
  • Decide well in advance what information you will post on your website, including nomination papers, financial statements, etc. – how are you going to display results on election night;
  • Use of social media during election;
  • Consider policy for use of regional resources during campaign, especially important for existing councillors running an election campaign.

Communicate Early & Often: 

Communicating is a vital component for the successful administration and implementation of the 2018 Municipal Election for candidates, electors and third-party advertisers. Changes in voting methods and educating everyone on the amended Municipal Elections Act are key factors which require communication. A first step is to ensure that you are meaningfully collaborating with your area clerks to develop key messaging on the election.

Voters, candidates and third-party advertisers will be getting information from every source – so as election officials, we need to provide the public with credible and accurate resources for reliance on all facets of election information, from where, when, and how to vote to eligibility requirements and third-party advertising rules.

Municipal clerks, as election officials, continue to be the ultimate authority on the election administration process to ensure that voters and candidates can successfully participate; moreover, election officials should be willing to use every tool available to deliver information to the public. Fortunately, modern communication tools make it easier and cheaper to reach large audiences with this election information.

Preparing for an election involves extensive planning. An efficient elections office often has detailed policies and procedures for all aspects of the process, but the best policies and procedures are helpful only if they are well publicized and understood.

An election official’s effort to educate and communicate with the public has a direct effect on the voters’ chances of having a successful election experience. Getting started is sometimes the hardest part.

  1. An election official first needs to define whom he or she serves.
  2. Who are the customers?
  3. What are the most common questions the customers ask?
  4. How do the customers get their information?

These questions and answers are the beginning of a communication strategy targeted at the election official’s specific community. An election official who prepares a communication strategy ahead of time will increase efficiency and optimize resources—including those that are needed to make sure the election runs smoothly after voting begins.

Information for Voters
Voters often ask the same, predictable questions throughout the election cycle. The top questions voters ask include “Am I registered to vote?” and “Where do I vote?”

The answers to these two questions should be easy for voters to locate on every election office’s website. Voters also need to know how to register to vote; how to find information about absentee, early voting, and provisional ballots; requirements for voter identification; and information about the voting equipment used in their jurisdiction.

Information for Candidates
Candidates also look to election officials for guidance during the election cycle. Their questions focus more on ballot eligibility, such as filing deadlines, filing information, and the qualifications to be a candidate. Election officials will need to make financial information available to the candidates as well. 

Information for the Public
The public may look to elections offices for answers to questions about the administration of elections in a broad sense aside from individual voter requests. For example, individuals interested in serving as poll workers will want to easily locate information about volunteering their time, so they will call the elections office or access the information on the elections office

Reporting to Council 

Questions on the Ballot – Section 8:

Section 8 of the Municipal Elections Act (MEA) provides Council with the authority to pass a by-law to place a question on the ballot that is within Council’s jurisdiction. The MEA permits municipalities to place a question on the ballot, which is essentially a referendum, during a regular election. Section 8 provides that Council of a municipality may pass a by-law authorizing a question on the ballot in respect to a proposed by-law; a question not otherwise authorized by law but within Council’s jurisdiction; a question, the wording of which is established by an Act or a regulation under an Act.

Section 8.2(1) states that the results of the question on the ballot are binding on the municipality if:

(a) at least 50 per cent of the eligible electors in the municipality vote on the question; and
(b) more than 50 percent of the votes on the question are in favour of those results.

Should your Council decide to include a question on the ballot, it would have to be authorized by a by-law no later than March 1, 2018 and May 1st for school boards or the Minister.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs may direct that a question appear on the ballot. To appear on a ballot, a question:

  • shall concern a matter within the jurisdiction of the municipality;
  • shall not concern a matter which has been prescribed by the Minister as a matter of provincial interest;
  • shall be clear, concise and neutral; and
  • shall be capable of being answered in the affirmative or the negative and the only permitted answers to the question are “yes” or “no.”

Language of Notices & Forms – Section 9:
The Act requires municipal election information to be made available in both in English and French (for those French language school board electors). The Act also authorizes a municipal council to pass a by-law to provide municipal election information in alternate languages, to help support electors whose first language is not English or French.

Voting Technology
New provincial legislation authorizes the Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario to make voting technology available to municipalities. On October 19, 2016, the legislature introduced Bill 45, Election Statute Amendment Act, 2016 which permits the Chief Electoral Officer to use technology in provincial elections and to make it available to other electoral authorities in Canada.  

Policy Updates
The Use of Corporate and Communication Resources during an Election Year is now a mandatory requirement of the Act. Many of these policies have dates tied to the election calendar. For example, some policies establish Nomination Day as the date after which certain types of expenses cannot be incurred by Members of Council. As noted above, the amendments to MEA have changed many important election dates.

Accessibility
Proposed changes to the Act would require Clerks to prepare accessibility plans to identify, remove and prevent barriers that could impact electors and candidates with disabilities, and make the plan available to the public prior to Voting Day. The Clerk will be required to prepare an Elections Accessibility Plan and make it available to the public prior to the beginning of the voting period. The MEA also requires the Clerk to prepare a report within ninety (90) days following the election that identifies recommendations for the removal and prevention of barriers that affect electors and candidates with disabilities and make this report available to the public, rather than submitting it to Council. 

Expanded powers/discretion for Clerks
Under the revised MEA, the Act provides Clerks with expanded powers/discretion which do not require Council’s approval. These include the following:

  • Establishment of advance voting dates, locations, and hours;
  • Establishment of reduced voting hours at long term care facilities;
  • Management of the voters’ list (additions/deletions/modifications);
  • Determination of whether filing of financial statements electronically will be permitted and any conditions or limits associated with electronic filing;
  • Authority to adopt a policy by May 1st of an election year to define circumstances under which a recount would be conducted.

Additionally, the clerk is now required to review all financial statements and identify any contributions made to candidates (and third-party advertisers) in excess of the legislated limit. If there are any apparent contraventions, it is required that the clerk report these to the Municipal Election Compliance Audit Committee for further investigation.

Compliance Audit Committee
Section 88.37 of the MEA requires each municipality to establish a compliance audit committee before October 1 of an election year. The term of office for the committee is concurrent with the term of Council and is responsible for considering applications from eligible electors that believe, on reasonable grounds, that a candidate has contravened the Act.

As a result of the amendments to the MEA, the committee is also responsible for receiving a report that the Clerk is required to prepare following an election. Pursuant to Section 88.34, the Clerk is required to examine all contributions made to all candidates as reported on their campaign financial statements. The Clerk is also required to determine if any person has made contributions to one or more candidates that exceed the maximum permitted contributions and to provide the committee with a report on those persons who may appear to have contravened the maximum contribution rules. Currently, the maximum contribution rules for municipal election campaigns is $750 per candidate, to a maximum of $5000 to two or more candidates for office on the same Council.  These amounts will change if MOMLA is enacted.
___________________________________________________

Click below for other resources: 

Election Express # 1 – New Legislation & The New Municipal Election Calendar 

Election Express # 2 – Keep Calm and Prepare 

AMCTO Municipal Elections Calendar

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