Generally speaking, Canada
has a system of universal voter registration. The Canadian government
has largely taken on the onus of registering its citizens to vote as
a means of protecting their constitutional right. It does so by
capturing the information needed to register voters when citizens interact
with various branches and agencies of the Canadian government. Although
no system is perfect and invariably someone will slip between the cracks,
the Canadian universal voter registration system provides a model to
contrast with the United States system of citizen-initiated opt-in registration. Additionally, Canada allows for election day registration for those who the universal registration system missed.
Details on the system are provided below.
National Election Administration:
Elections Canada is the federal agency created by the Canadian Parliament,
responsible for conducting business generally associated with federal
elections, by-elections and referenda in Canada. It is a non-partisan,
independent body that is most well known for orchestrating elections
at the federal level. However, it also bears the responsibility
of administering campaign finance provisions in line with the Canada
Elections Act, as well ensuring compliance with electoral laws.
Finally, it is a main source of voter education and studies on alternative
voting methods. This central election administration agency makes it
possible to coordinate and develop a national system of universal voter
National Voter Roll:
The National Register of Electors is a list of voters’ names compiled
from various federal and provincial government branches and agencies
by Elections Canada. The National Register, established by Bill C-63
in December 1996, is intended to provide information on all eligible
voters at the federal level. It is intended to replace the prior system
of conducting voter registration through a census. Prior to the
establishment of the register, Elections Canada hired thousands of volunteers
each election to go door-to-door, registering eligible Canadians to
vote. This system was abolished by Bill C-63 because it was determined
that a national voter registry would be less costly, less time consuming
and would be easier to keep updated.
In order to make this possible,
Elections Canada has information-sharing agreements with several Canadian
government branches and agencies as a means of keeping its voter rolls
updated. According to its website, the body exchanges information
with the Canada Revenue Agency, Canada Post, Citizenship and Immigration
Canada, provincial and territorial registrars of motor vehicles and
vital statistics, & provincial electoral agencies.
Privacy & Opt-Out Provision: Elections Canada is mandated to keep all information on The National Register of Electors confidential via the Canada Elections Act and the Privacy Act. The information is made available to a select group of people, including political parties and candidates at the time of an election, but can only be used for electoral purposes. Canadian citizens have the right to have their information excluded from the National Register of Electors or prevent its transfer to the provinces and territories by writing to the Chief Electoral Officer. If they wish to vote, Canadians can simply register with the office of the returning officer at the time of an election, at an advance poll, or the day of an election at the poll.