Should permanent residents be allowed to vote in Ontario? Experts say it might be time

Haven’t seen many calls by experts for federal and provincial voting rights for Permanent Residents, only with respect to municipal election. As I have written before, not in agreement given the relatively straightforward path for Permanent Residents to become citizens (although the Liberal government delivering on its 2019 and 2021 election commitments to eliminate fees would help).

And why did Nagra not become a citizen given that she has lived in Canada for most of her life?

More substantively, the focus needs to be on measures to increase participation among eligible voters, than simply expand the pool, whether by age changes or immigration status:

Maneet Nagra wanted to vote in last Thursday’s Ontario election, and she even got a voter card in the mail. All she had to do was head to the polling station with one piece of ID and mark an X.

One big problem held her back: she’s a permanent resident and therefore isn’t allowed to vote.

“I got the card and I thought I could vote. I got kind of excited. And then, I searched it out and it turns out I can’t,” Nagra told CBC Toronto.

Source: Should permanent residents be allowed to vote in Ontario? Experts say it might be time

Parties should target the millions of voters outside Canada

Never supported expatriate voting for those with minimal to no connection to Canada which the current law allows.

Tax, passport and other data indicates that the number with strong connections to Canada is much lower and the 2.8 estimate is from an Asia Pacific Foundation study that included those under 18 and Permanent Residents (not just citizens).

Experience from other countries indicates a relatively small portion of expatriates vote given their greater connection to country of residence or other factors: less than 10 percent with the exception of France):

It’s estimated that 2.8 million Canadians live outside the country, yet Elections Canada expects as few as 34,000 expatriates will vote in Canada’s 44th general election on Sept. 20.

As polls tighten, and political parties try to expand their support, Canadians like me who live abroad are another source of voters Liberals can tap in order to secure a majority mandate — or the Conservatives can use to pull off an upset win. They just need to mobilize us, which the pandemic has actually made easier.

Despite attempts by former prime minister Stephen Harper to restrict the voting rights of Canadians who’ve lived abroad for more than five years, now, any adult who’s lived in Canada at some point in his or her life is eligible. Whether they agree with them or not, these are the rules the parties should consider as they strategize.

To maximize their chances of forming government, political parties spend campaigns energizing their supporters, or enticing undecided ones, to cast a ballot for their candidates.

Traditionally, they can count on about 60 per cent of eligible Canadians to vote. In the last election, 67 per cent of electors, or about 18 million Canadians, cast a ballot.

But despite efforts by political parties, in the past five elections, voter turnout has never exceeded 70 per cent. This leaves parties with limited ways to increase their bases.

But one way is to add voters. According to Nik Nanos of Nanos Research, the Liberals were denied a majority in the last election after losing 13 ridings by a total of 22,599 votes.

Canadians living abroad must register or request a special ballot to vote, mail it in, and vote where they last lived. Elections Canada is expecting a surge in these types of votes from inside the country, given the reluctance to vote in person during a pandemic.

This has changed the way political parties are campaigning. Large rallies and other traditional activities have been modified to meet public-health restrictions, which vary in degree across the country.

Much of the campaign is online, and this makes social media, organic and paid, more important. Digital tactics, which include encouraging mail-in ballots, make it easier for political parties to reach Canadians outside the country, who’d normally be left out.

Parties assign regional campaign chairs to groups of provinces and territories. Meanwhile, the estimated 2.8 million Canadians living abroad exceed the populations of nine Canadian provinces and territories, although it’s unlikely that campaign resources have been dedicated to engaging these millions of expats.

In contrast, Democrats Abroad, for example, actively supports voter registration, while keeping Americans who live abroad informed of key programs and policies.

Canadians live all over the world, but by analyzing past voting habits, we know where to target them.

In the 2019 election, most special ballots were requested from the U.S. and the U.K., and many fewer from China, Hong Kong, Australia, and Germany.

While we might not know how Canadians abroad vote, we know that millions of them have the right to vote and never have.

In a tightening race — and in an online campaign driving mail-in ballots — this is an opportunity for parties to gain voters. With some small changes in messaging targeted at key overseas locations, it could make all the difference.

Max Stern is a former employee of the Liberal Party of Canada, and a graduate student and communications consultant living in Brooklyn, New York.

Source: Parties should target the millions of voters outside Canada

New Brunswick: Some immigrants should get to vote in civic elections, group says

Personally, question how urgent a need this is when the path to Canadian citizenship is relatively easy and straightforward, one that will become more affordable when the government implements its election commitment to waive fees (or even if it does so partially):

A growing chorus of New Brunswickers is calling for giving some voting rights to immigrants who have obtained permanent resident status.

The New Brunswick Multicultural Council is leading the campaign to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections.

Moncef Lakouas, the council’s president, said he’s talked to municipal leaders and to many other citizens across the province and has found enthusiasm for the change.

“It’s not just permanent residents calling for this,” said Lakouas. “Many New Brunswickers, including elected officials, are saying, let’s do this.”

Permanent residents have many of the responsibilities and rights citizens enjoy, such as paying taxes and access to some social programs, but voting rights are not extended until citizenship is obtained.

Som Somaditya Das, a permanent resident living in Saint John, said permanent residents contribute so much to their communities, it only makes sense to extend voting rights.

“We are living here,” said Das.

“We are paying taxes. We are contributing to the growth and development of the economy of this region. We are contributing to the cultural landscape, to the social landscape. But we do not have any avenue so that our voice is heard, at least politically.”

But Lakouas said permanent residents can begin to contribute to the community politically before citizenship.

The council is focusing on an extension of voting rights in local elections, rather than provincial or federal ones, because of how direct the involvement of municipal governments are in newcomers’ lives.

Das said allowing permanent residents to vote could help increase diversity in municipal governments.

“We have different perspectives of people coming from different parts of the world,” said Das.

“They are different in their cultural background in their ethnic background. So we may not recognize their needs or the necessities in their lives unless we have a diverse representation in the government.”

The ball is now in the province’s court, as municipalities fall under provincial jurisdiction, so any change to voting rights would have to come from the province.

CBC News has reached out to the Department of Local Government and Local Governance Reform but has not heard back.

Lakouas said this is an opportunity for the province to lead the way.

“This is something that has not happened in Canada,” said Lakouas.

“We could lead first on it. We don’t have to wait for somebody else to do it and then learn from the process. We can lead the way and lead also all the marketing and the economic benefits that will come from it.”

Source: Some immigrants should get to vote in civic elections, group says

New U.S. Citizens Were One Of The Fastest-Growing Voting Blocs. But Not This Year.

One of the (intended) effects of Trump administration policies:

On a Wednesday morning in late February, Annie Johnson Benifield was already through the doors of the M.O. Campbell Education Center, in Houston by 5:30 a.m.

The occasion was a once-a-month naturalization ceremony, where anywhere between 1,700 to 2,600 legal permanent residents swear a 140-word oath in order to become U.S. citizens. The ceremony wouldn’t begin until later in the morning, but Benifield and the 40 or so volunteers from the League of Women Voters (LWV) had arrived early to set up.

The League is the official registration partner for many naturalization ceremonies across the country. And before the pandemic, these events happened frequently, taking place once, or sometimes twice, each month at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field offices as well as some federal courthouses. The League had predicted that, in 2020, it would interact with up to 200,000 new citizens and their family members in 1,000 events across the country.

The Houston chapter specifically had an 85 to 90 percent success rate in new voter registrations, for an annual average of 30,000 new voters, according to Benifield. But this year, with the widespread interest in the presidential elections, she thought registrations might crack 40,000.

“I was getting excited and feeling giddy about it,” she told FiveThirtyEight, “but COVID-19 had a different plan.”

Newly naturalized citizens are one of the fastest-growing voting groups in the United States. In February, the Pew Research Center published a report that found that 23.2 million naturalized citizens would be eligible to vote in November’s presidential elections, making up a record 10 percent of the total electorate. And according to a February analysis by the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), a coalition of immigrant advocacy organizations, 860,000 new Americans were expected to have naturalized by November before the pandemic brought things to a halt.

But not all eligible voters actually vote, and naturalized Americans have historically trailed native-born Americans at the polls.1 In 2016, for example, 54 percent of naturalized citizens voted in the general election compared with 62 percent of native-born citizens. According to studies, one explanation is an element that could be missing again this year: voter registration. It’s not a lack of desire to participate, the study finds, but rather it’s an unfamiliarity with how or where to register, registration deadlines, and language issues. Once these barriers are overcome and new Americans are registered, they tend to vote at the same rates as native-born members of their demographic group.

Take someone like Raz Ahmadi, a new U.S. citizen from Afghanistan. For the past five years, he has worked as an organizer registering voters and advocating for progressive environmental policies in Virginia. And this year, after completing the naturalization process, which had been interrupted by COVID-19, in mid-July, Ahmadi will finally be able to cast his own ballot.

Though he has already been involved in politics, Ahmadi says that being able to actually participate is a whole new feeling for him. Being “empowered to vote, mentally, it gives you a lot of power,” he says. “It just personalizes a lot of things. Now you’re more involved in the community.”

But even before COVID-19, the wait time for citizenship applications had hit new highs under the Trump administration. According to USCIS numbers, the naturalization process averaged 8.8 months in 2020, compared with 5.6 months in 2016 and a peak of 10.3 months in 2018,2 though in some cases, it could take up to three years.

COVID-19 exacerbated this delay. On March 18, USCIS temporarily shut down all public-facing activities, including interviews for visas, asylum and naturalization as well as oath ceremonies. The agency did not make plans for virtual alternatives, bringing much of U.S. immigration to a halt.

For each day that USCIS remained closed, 2,100 potential new voters would be disenfranchised, according to a frequently cited report by Boundless, an immigration-services company co-founded by an Obama administration official.

USCIS field offices reopened on June 4 and prioritized in-person oath-swearing ceremonies. Some field offices held drive-through ceremonies, while others held more frequent, but smaller, indoor or outdoor ceremonies. By the end of July, the agency says that it has cleared the backlog of 110,000 oath ceremonies delayed by its closures, as well as an additional 7,905 oath ceremonies not scheduled before the pandemic.

Still, these 7,905 new naturalizations in July represent a twelve-fold decrease than the typical 95,850 naturalizations completed each month. So even though in-person oath ceremonies are continuing, “the fact of the matter was that there was already a backlog of people waiting to be naturalized,” says Jeanette Senecal, who oversees voter-engagement programs at the League of Women Voters, “so unless USCIS is both increasing the number of people who are getting naturalized at each one and offering more ceremonies, there’s really no way they can make that up.”

From the outset of USCIS’s closure, a diverse group of bipartisan policymakers, immigration lawyers, community advocates, and third-party voter-registration organizations like the League of Women Voters have called on USCIS to follow in the footsteps of other federal government agencies in moving activities online. In June, the USCIS Ombudsman’s Office, a small, independent office in the Department of Homeland Security that appeals specific immigration cases and suggests improvements for USCIS, weighed in, calling remote oath ceremonies, held via video teleconferencing, “a legally permissible and operationally feasible solution” for the agency in the short term and a potential long-term solution to “increase efficiencies” in its annual report to Congress.

But still, the USCIS rejected a virtual option. Spokespeople told FiveThirtyEight repeatedly, both before and after the Ombudsman’s report, that “the statutory language mandated by Congress contains certain requirements that are logistically difficult for USCIS to administer naturalization oaths virtually or telephonically.”

USCIS says that they’ve taken steps to clear the backlog in oath ceremonies, but these ceremonies are not the only steps in the naturalization process that are delayed.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, calls USCIS’s emphasis on clearing the backlog in oath ceremonies “really misleading” because it wasn’t just oath ceremonies that were paused during this time. “It was also interviews, which meant that naturalization applications weren’t being processed,” said Pierce. She added that unless USCIS was also trying to expedite processing of naturalization applications, there was “no way” the agency was going to be able to naturalize the same number of people by the election.

By the end of March, there were more than 700,000 naturalization applications waiting to be processed.

Dan Hetlage, a USCIS spokesperson, told FiveThirtyEight that the agency has also “prioritized rescheduling interviews for naturalization and adjustment of status that were postponed,” but as of early August, immigration lawyers I spoke with said that their clients had not been contacted to schedule naturalization interviews.

There are currently 315,000 naturalization applicants awaiting their interviews, which on average occur two months before an oath ceremony, according to a Boundless analysis. In two months it will be October, which is the deadline for voter registration in many states. That means an unknown but likely significant number of those 315,000 applicants will not naturalize soon enough to register by October and vote in November.

It’s not just USCIS that has changed as a result of the pandemic. A recent report from the Migration Policy Institute cataloged 63 executive actions undertaken by the Trump administration since March that have further restricted immigration.

Pierce, who co-authored the report, says that these changes represented some of the Trump administration’s “boldest actions on immigration to date” that, in some cases, they had long been pushing but had been unable to achieve. This includes a travel ban on 31 countries, the end of asylum at the southern border, and the suspension of immigration for many family- and employment-based categories as well as four temporary-worker programs.

“During an unprecedented pandemic, which includes both public health and economic crises, you would expect immigration to take a backseat,” says Pierce, “but rather, the opposite has been true.”

When USCIS offices reopened on June 4, organizations like the League of Women Voters scrambled to help with voter-registration efforts. Benifield, from LWV-Houston, recalls reaching out multiple times to the local field office. “We were prepared to go and set up in the parking lot … if they allowed us,” she said.

In the end, her persistence paid off. “The branch chief … agreed that we could actually bring cards” for officials administering the naturalization ceremony to give out. The League cannot be on-site to register applicants directly because of the continued threat the pandemic poses, but they can drop off folders containing voter-registration packets to the local field office to be distributed at the socially distant ceremonies. USCIS is legally mandated to provide, at a minimum, voter-registration forms at each naturalization ceremony.

Benifiled said she was glad they could distribute materials, but she remained unsure how effective this form of voter registration would be. “Clearly, it will not be 30,000 like … last year.”

This is affecting the League’s activities across the country. “Spring and summer are usually really busy seasons for voter registration, but especially in presidential years, we usually see massive increases… [in] naturalization ceremonies,” says Senecal, from the League’s national office.

Volunteers understand the public health prerogatives that prevent them from conducting registrations in person, especially since many are older and at higher risk for COVID-19, but many, like Benifield, are concerned about the effect on registration numbers and broader civic engagement.

“The opportunity cost is not just registration,” adds Senecal, “it’s also voter education.”

At a basic level, in-person voter registration provides necessary information in native languages, says Nancy Xiong, the communications director for Hmong Innovating Politics, a California-based nonprofit that aims to increase civic participation among Southeast Asian Americans.

Native language materials are essential, since many new citizens, especially in already marginalized communities, have challenges with English. Even when they are provided with translated voting materials, Xiong adds, these materials “may not always be helpful because county/state offices do a word-to-word translation, without much context.”

This can create the perception that these communities are uninterested in politics, leading to “big campaigns never or rarely contact[ing] the Southeast Asian community,” Xiong says, even though 92 percent of the 310,000 Hmong Americans are citizens, one of the highest rates among Asian Americans, and 45 percent are eligible to vote. And this perpetuates a cycle of disenfranchisement, at the very moment when immigrant voters might be especially incentivized to vote, if previous elections in which immigration was a hot topic are any indication. In 2008, presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s suggestion that immigrants should “self-deport” and hardline views on DACA, for example, have been linked to a jump in voter registrations between 2008 to 2012.

Sundrop Carter, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC), which partners with the Philadelphia USCIS field office as its official third-party registration organization for naturalization ceremonies, told me part of the problem is that: “[B]y definition new Americans have no voter history.” As a result, she said, they’re often bypassed by most get-out-the-vote efforts. “New voters … they’re just invisible.”

This is despite the fact that in many battleground states, like Pennsylvania, where Carter is based, as well as Michigan, Florida and Nevada, the number of new Americans who are eligible to vote now is larger than the margin of victory in the 2016 elections, according to the June 2020 report from the NPNA. “Newly naturalized citizens could help to sway the outcome of national elections,” says Diego Iñiguez-López, the NPNA’s policy and campaigns manager. But more importantly, he adds, “what’s at stake is the political empowerment of newly naturalized citizens … and for the democratic ideals of this country to be fully realized and exercised.”

Community organizations have always tried to fill in the gap — and this year, just as the need for their services ramp up, COVID-19 has made them more difficult to deliver.

Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP), in California, and the nonprofit Bonding Against Adversity in Houston, which works mostly with Latin American immigrants, are doing their best to adapt by moving their activities online. HIP has switched to a text-messaging platform, which uses current friends-and-family circles to encourage contacts to register to vote. Bonding Against Adversity, meanwhile, has expanded another SMS-based communications platform to provide real-time immigration application help, and plans to restart an online version of their 14-session “citizenship college” civic-education program and application workshops in August.

Meanwhile, LWV-Houston members have paid for a QR code that brings up voter-registration information, which it is sharing on signs and, for a while, in person at public libraries, community and faith-based organizations, protests and even a taco chain restaurant.

But still, many organizations are afraid that some of the most vulnerable communities, who already feel left out of the political process, will fall through the gaps. “A lot of the communities that we work with have elementary education, are not computer-savvy, and don’t speak good English,” says Mariana Sanchez, a co-founder of Bonding Against Adversity. That’s why she says in-person registration and education is essential.

But the pandemic has put these in-person services on pause, and as a result, the applicants who need the most support are unable to access it.

COVID-19 shows little evidence of slowing down. By June, hospitals in states like Texas that had avoided the early wave of infections were warning that hospital beds were close to full, and in-person voter-registration activities, which the League of Women Voters had just restarted alongside USCIS’s reopenings, were put on indefinite pause.

In the meantime, smaller oath ceremonies continue, with USCIS spokespeople emphasizing their adherence during the ceremonies to public-health guidelines, including masks and social distancing. But it is not clear if USCIS has any contingency plans in place for alternatives to in-person activities.

The potential of more stay-at-home orders at a local level is also a possibility, which would affect which activities USCIS could continue. Guam’s USCIS office, for example, was shut down for a week as the territory’s COVID-19 case count led the governor to issue orders to shelter in place. Hetlage, the USCIS representative, did not respond to a specific question on contingency plans but reiterated that virtual oath ceremonies weren’t possible.

This has many immigration advocates perplexed. “Almost every business, school district, university and government agency across the country has made adjustments to keep their organizations — and the country — moving,” says Eric Cohen, the executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, an advocacy group. “Why should USCIS be any different?”

The question represents an ongoing frustration: Yes, there is an unprecedented public-health crisis, but there is also a human-made immigration crisis stemming from the administration’s policies and USCIS’s decision-making during the pandemic.

“It’s hard to look at the actions the administration has taken that result in decreased immigration, and not think that there was some intent there, especially when you’re talking about an administration that is historic in its stance on legal immigration.” says Pierce, of MPI, on whether the immigration agency’s decision-making could be political. Beyond the 63 actions taken during the pandemic, Pierce’s report identified over 400 executive actions by the Trump administration taken in the past four years that have shifted the immigration system toward removing suspected undocumented immigrants, and away from processing applications for naturalization and legal immigration.

It stands in stark contrast with the second night of the Republican National Convention, when Trump naturalized five new citizens at the White House in a prerecorded video. The president welcomed them to “a family comprised of every race, color, religion and creed united by the bonds of love,” as he said in his concluding remarks. “We are one people sharing one home, saluting one great American flag.”

USCIS representatives did not respond to a request for comment on whether the five were given voter-registration forms, as required by law.

Since early summer, USCIS has warned that if it does not receive $1.2 billion in emergency funding, the agency would furlough 13,000 workers – 70 percent of its workforce — and slow or pause many immigration processes. On August 25, after months of back-and-forth, Congress and USCIS reached an agreement that would avoid the furlough.

That agreement would not, however, avoid further delays in processing, as Joseph Edlow, deputy director for policy at USCIS, told The Washington Post: “Averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs.”

In an effort to increase its financial sustainability, USCIS will increase fees by an average of 20 percent across the board, and more than 80 percent for naturalization applications. For groups like Bonding Against Adversity and Hmong Innovating Politics, which were already under-resourced before the pandemic, these changes will only add to their immediate workload.

Sanchez says she’s already received more inquiries from people who want to apply for citizenship before application fees for naturalization increase. “The immigration laws are so difficult,” says Sanchez, that “the only way, for some of the people we serve to help their families is through citizenship…and voting.”

But USCIS is making the process more difficult. That’s why the NPNA sees naturalization delays as an issue of voting rights.

“It’s part of the larger anti-immigrant agenda that the Trump administration has pursued over the last few years,” says Iñiguez-López. “Keep immigrants feeling unwelcome, keep them afraid, keep them intimidated, and keep them away from knowing and asserting their rights, including their right to vote.”

In other words, while these would-be citizens are trying to follow the rules of the U.S. immigration system to naturalize and effect change through the established democratic processes, the system has itself become the barrier.

Source: New U.S. Citizens Were One Of The Fastest-Growing Voting Blocs. But Not This Year.

Discrepancy between Elections Canada, StatsCan reports likely due to social desirability bias

Of note. The limits of self-reporting and social bias:

Despite an 11-percentage-point discrepancy between self-reported and actual voter turnout, a recent Statistics Canada survey still provides valuable information on the electorate and voting trends, experts say.

The StatsCan survey, which relies on self-reporting, collected data by adding five election-related questions to the 2019 Labour Force Survey, which is distributed to approximately 56,000 households. The survey does not include Indigenous people living on reserve, full-time members of the Canadian armed forces, prisoners, and households in remote areas with very low population density.

Because the survey misses certain groups, it actually looks more like the electorate than the entire population, Richard Johnston, professor at the University of British Columbia and Canada Research Chair in public opinion, elections, and representation.

“The people who are missed by the survey tend to be the sort of people who are generally socially disconnected and are least likely to be subject to kinds of social pressure that get people to the polls,” Prof. Johnston said.

There was a similar gap between the reported turnout numbers after the 2015 election. Actual turnout in 2015, as reported by Elections Canada, was 68 per cent. The StatsCan post-2015 election report had self-reported turnout at 77 per cent, a difference of nine percentage points.

The data in the Elections Canada post-election survey is more accurate, said Lydia Miljan, University of Windsor political science professor, as the StatsCan survey relies on self-reporting. Prof. Miljan said the social desirability bias explains much of the discrepancy between the StatsCan survey and Elections Canada report.

“It’s not socially desirable to say, ‘I don’t vote’, so that’s why you always end up having a higher rate of self-reporting as opposed to what’s actually happening,” Prof. Miljan said.

Despite the discrepancy, Prof. Miljan said StatsCan’s report is valuable for the details it offers on demographic splits, which can “give a good trend analysis from one election to another.”

“If you’re trying to get inside the guts of social, psychological, or political differences in turnouts, these surveys are pretty good. It’s just that the baseline is too high,” Prof. Johnston said.

No interest in politics still top reason

A disinterest in politics was the top reason voters, in every age group except non-voters 75 years and older, cited for skipping out on the 2019 federal election, at 35 per cent, StatsCan’s report suggested. The same reason topped the list in the 2015 and 2011 federal elections. No data exists for prior elections, according to the agency, as the survey was inaugurated after the 2011 election. In 2019, the surveyed showed 23 per cent of Canadians did not vote.

Non-voters between 55 and 64 were the most likely to cite no interest in politics as the reason for not voting, at 38 per cent. Non-voters between 18 and 24, and 25 and 34, commonly thought of as the least-engaged age groups, were actually less likely than older voters to cite no interest.

Interest in politics appears to sharply increase between those who are 65 to 74 years old and those 75 years old and older. For voters between 65 and 74, 34 per cent said they lack sufficient interest, but that number drops to 21 per cent for voters 75 and up.

Women also appear to be generally more interested in politics than men, with 32 per cent of women and 37 per cent of men reporting a lack of interest as the prime reason for staying home.

Among the provinces, voters in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Quebec were the most likely to say they lack an interest in politics. Quebecers appear to be the most disengaged, with 41 per cent lacking an interest, compared to 40 per cent in Nova Scotia and 39 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Other voters reported they were too busy to vote, making it the second most-common reason at 22 per cent, which is also consistent across the three elections surveyed.

Younger voters were much more likely to cite being too busy than older voters. Voters between 25 and 34 years old were the most likely to be too busy, with 30 per cent reporting it as their reason. As voters get older, it drops precipitously. Just 16 per cent of voters between 55 and 64, seven per cent between 65 and 74, and four per cent older than 75 report being too busy to vote. Discrepancies in gender are virtually nonexistent, with 22 per cent of men and 21 per cent of women reporting being too busy.

The third most-common reason was suffering from an illness or disability. In 2019, 13 per cent of non-voters said an illness or disability prevented them from voting, up from 12 per cent in 2015 and nine per cent in 2011.

In a supplementary post-2015 report from Elections Canada that broke down turnout by demographics, youth voter turnout was actually 57 per cent. A similar supplementary report for the 2019 election has not yet been released.

Self-reported turnout amongst voters aged 55 and up has held steady around 80 per cent over the past three elections, but self-reported turnout amongst those 44 and younger jumped at least 10 points between 2011 and 2015, and remained high for the 2019 election.

“In 2015, there was a sort of social movement quality to the Trudeau victory, and the evidence suggests that the turnout surge in 2015 was a surge of younger people looking for a new kind of politics. And a lot of those younger people stuck around in 2019,” Prof. Johnston said.

Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest self-reported turnout in the 2011, 2015, and 2019 general elections. In 2019, provincial turnout was 68 per cent, seven points lower than Manitoba at 75 per cent, the province with the second lowest turnout rate in 2019. Manitoba faced severe storms during advance polling time, causing evacuations, power outages, road closures, flooding, and some polling stations to close. Elections Canada set up an additional polling station at the University of Winnipeg for voters from four electoral districts, and teamed up with the Canadian Red Cross to transport voters. Elections Canada reported that 270 people used this option. Emergency workers helping with disaster response were also provided with additional polling stations, and 592 voted at the additional stations.

Prince Edward Island had the highest turnout in the 2011, 2015, and 2019 elections, topping 80 per cent each time. In 2019, turnout was 82 per cent, down from 86 per cent in 2015. Prof. Miljan and Prof. Johnston said P.E.I is usually the most turnout-heavy province in both federal and provincial elections.

Despite P.E.I.’s high turnout, the rate actually decreased the most between the 2015 and 2019 elections, from 86 to 22 per cent. Quebec, from 78 to 76 per cent, and British Columbia, from 79 to 76 per cent, also had turnout drops. Turnout largely remained the same in the remaining provinces.

Prof. Johnston provided an anecdotal explanation for the Atlantic provinces turnout numbers. He said the social pressure to vote in P.E.I is potentially higher given the population density, 25.1 people per square kilometre, which is the highest in the country. Newfoundland and Labrador is the province with the lowest population density, at 1.4 people per square kilometre.

“There’s a sense in which someone from P.E.I is going to feel social pressure to turn out because they see each other more regularly and they know each other. There are social networks that reinforce participation,” Prof. Johnston said.

Turnout increased the most between 2015 and 2019 in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Alberta turnout rose from 77 to 80 per cent, and Saskatchewan from 77 to 81 per cent. 

Prof. Miljan suggested one reason for increased turnout in Western Canada was due to frustration with the Trudeau government.

“When people don’t vote, it means they’re pretty happy with the regime and they don’t feel it [their vote] matters one way or another,” she said. This theory suggests that Western voters are “not happy with the regime and they really wanted to make sure their voices were heard.”

Source: Discrepancy between Elections Canada, StatsCan reports likely due to social desirability bias

Americans in Canada get ready to vote in U.S. primary — and those results carry more weight than you think

Will be interesting to see if Canadian parties, following the extension of voting rights to virtually all expatriates, develop comparable approaches to engage expatriates (didn’t see many signs in the 2019 election):

As Americans prepare to vote in the “Super Tuesday” Democratic presidential primaries Tuesday, a lot of attention will be paid to the two biggest states: California and Texas. But Americans living in Toronto and across Canada could have an even bigger impact, proportionally.

Alongside the 14 states and one territory holding their primary on Tuesday, it’s also the start of voting for the Democrats Abroad primary, in which U.S. citizens who live in other countries are able to vote in a separate primary that sends 13 pledged delegates to the nominating convention. That’s only one fewer electable delegates than some states such as North Dakota and Wyoming elect. And because fewer people vote in the international contest — an estimated 9 million American eligible voters live abroad, but less than 35,000 voters participated in 2016 — each vote carries far more weight.

According to a recent message sent out to members by Democrats Abroad Canada, that means the votes of Americans in Toronto has four times the impact of a vote in California.

One campaign trying to take advantage of this is Mike Bloomberg’s, which ran ads in Canadian newspapers — as well as in other countries around the world — this weekend.

“What we’re trying to do is just raise awareness of the campaign, because, you know, we’re really running two campaigns at the same time,” says John Calvelli, who serves double duty as the campaign director for New York State and Democrats Abroad. “One obviously, is to get Mike Bloomberg elected, but the other is to kind of engage the base and identify new people that we could get into the fold so that they would then vote against Donald Trump in November.”

Calvelli says it’s not something many other campaigns devote a lot of resources to. Though, of course, not many campaigns have the financial resources available to them that the billionaire former mayor of New York does. Calvelli says it’s a challenge because there are no lists of members available, so phone banks and door knocking, as in a traditional state primary, are not options. Hence the newspaper ads, alongside a campaign visit to Toronto recently by Bloomberg, and social media and word-of-mouth campaigns.

Calvelli says in 2016 Canadian residents had among the largest vote turnouts for the primary, with 3,260 people voting, just shy of 10 per cent of the total voters in what he calls the “51st state” primary.

Americans in the GTA can register with Democrats Abroad this week if they want to vote in the primary, and then have the option of voting online between Tuesday and March 10, or voting in person at one of two GTA locations. In-person voting will take place starting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday at the East of Brunswick pub in downtown Toronto and at Failte Irish Pub in Mississauga.

Source: Americans in Canada get ready to vote in U.S. primary — and those results carry more weight than you think

Reasons for not voting in the federal election, October 21, 2019

StatsCan analysis of the 2019 election. Some interesting variations between immigrant and Canadian-born voters in terms of reasons for not voting (would be interesting to see if these variations continue into the section generation):

Voter turnout among youth holds steady for the October 21, 2019, federal election

Just over three-quarters (77%) of Canadians reported voting in the 2019 federal election, unchanged from the 2015 election.

In particular, following notable increases of more than 10 percentage points between the 2011 and 2015 elections, voter turnout among younger people aged 18 to 24, and 25 to 34, remained at similar levels in 2019.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Voter turnout by age group, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections
Voter turnout by age group, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections

Chart 1: Voter turnout by age group, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections

Voter turnout increases in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario

Compared with the 2015 federal election, the proportion of Canadians who reported voting in 2019 increased in Saskatchewan (+4 percentage points), Alberta (+3 percentage points), and Ontario (+2 percentage points). These are more modest increases than those observed in most provinces between the 2011 and 2015 elections.

While Prince Edward Island had the highest proportion (82%) of people who reported voting in the 2019 election, voter turnout in the province decreased by 4 percentage points compared with 2015. Declines were also recorded in British Columbia (-3 percentage points) and Quebec (-2 percentage points). There was little change in the remaining provinces.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Voter turnout by province, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections
Voter turnout by province, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections

Chart 2: Voter turnout by province, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections

“Not interested in politics” remains top reason for not voting

Among the 23% of eligible Canadians who did not vote, the top reason for not voting in the federal election was “not interested in politics,” cited by 35% of non-voters in 2019. This was the most common reason for all age groups, with the exception of those aged 75 and older, who were most likely to indicate that they did not vote due to an illness or disability (49%).

Non-voters who were Canadian citizens by birth were more likely to report a lack of interest in politics as the reason for not casting a ballot (37%), compared with citizens by naturalization—both those who had been in Canada for 10 years or less (26%) and those who immigrated more than 10 years earlier (also 26%).

One in five non-voters report being too busy

Collectively, everyday life reasons were cited by nearly half of all non-voters (46%); these include being too busy (22%), having an illness or disability (13%), or being out of town (11%).

Everyday life issues were the most common reasons cited by non-voters in British Columbia, while political issues (including not interested in politics) were most prevalent in Nova Scotia.

Women more likely to report illness or disability

Female non-voters (48%) were more likely than their male counterparts (44%) to cite one of the everyday life issues as the reason for not voting, most notably having an illness or disability (16% versus 10%). This is partly related to the fact that a higher proportion of women were in the older age groups compared with men. One in ten female non-voters was aged 75 or older.

In contrast, men (37%) were more likely to report not being interested in politics compared with women (32%).

Some electors not voting for reasons related to the electoral process

Among Canadians who did not vote in the 2019 federal election, 5% identified issues with the electoral process as the reason for not voting, including not being able to prove their identity or address, a lack of information about the voting process, or issues with the voter information card.

Non-voters aged 75 and older (9%) and aged 18 to 24 (8%) were most likely to report electoral process issues as the reason for not voting. However, the proportion of youth citing this reason declined by 3 percentage points compared with the 2015 election.

Source: Reasons for not voting in the federal election , October 21, 2019 

Canadians in Hong Kong urged to vote in federal election with an eye on party policies toward territory and China

Interesting that virtually all of the advocates quoted are non-Chinese Canadians. The one Chinese Canadian quoted makes the most sensible comment that his vote won’t be this single issue.

Given the large number of Canadian expats in Hong Kong, Richmond BC was a possible example where Chinese Canadian expats could influence the election result in that riding.

We will see whether the indefinite extension of voting rights for expats results in a significant increase in expat voting (only 15,603 registered in 2015 of whom 10,707 valid votes cast):

 As Hong Kong wrestles with its worst political crisis in years, Andrew Work wants the hundreds of thousands of Canadians living there to know they have a new chance to help elect a government in Ottawa that will represent their interests.

Mr. Work, president of the Canadian Club in Hong Kong, is organizing a voter-registration drive to urge some of the estimated 300,000 Canadians who live in the city to cast their ballots in the coming federal election in Canada. Previously, Canadians who had lived outside Canada for more than five years were barred in theory from voting under legislation from the early 1990s, That law was only loosely enforced. In response to a Harper government’s attempt to enforce that law, however, the Supreme Court ruled this January that all non-residents have the right to vote, no matter how long they have lived elsewhere. The Liberal government also passed legislation last December extending voting rights to all non-resident citizens.

“I am sure for some people, they will very much have [Hong Kong’s political turmoil] on their mind as they would look carefully at Canadian policies towards China and Hong Kong as part of their voting calculation,” Mr. Work said in an interview from Hong Kong.

“Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. Now that Hong Kong is on the front page of newspapers everyday around the world, including Canada, Canadians of all types will have Canada’s policy on their mind.”

Ghislain Desjardins, a spokesman for Elections Canada, Asia, said earlier this week that there are 628 voters registered on the International Register of Electors in 198 different electoral districts. The agency doesn’t have country-specific numbers.

Hong Kong has been racked by months of protests by demonstrators angry at what they see as the Chinese government’s increasing incursion into the semi-autonomous territory’s affairs.

Barrett Bingley, originally from Victoria, now works as the North Asia sales director for The Economist in Hong Kong. He said the protests are having a devastating effect on the people who work for him.

“I have many staff who I worry about now,” he said. “I had staff who had been tear gassed; staff who were not protesting who were tear gassed … We have staff who are experiencing psychological issues. We have to make sure they’re well taken care of.”

When casting his vote in the Canadian election, he said he’ll be considering which political leader is willing to take a strong stand to protect the “one country, two systems” philosophy that China promised when it took possession of the territory from Britain in 1997. The arrangement allows Hong Kong its own laws for 50 years.

The recent weeks’ increasing violence in Hong Kong have made him concerned about his and his family’s safety. He said both Australia and British consulates sent representatives to Hong Kong’s airport, where some of the latest demonstrations took place. He said the Canadian consulate should be doing more to safeguard its citizens.

Instead, Mr. Bingley said he has been watching the Canadian government “say virtually nothing” on the issue except for a “soft statement” made by the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week.

On Monday, Mr. Trudeau told the media that the government is “extremely concerned” about the situation in Hong Kong and called on Beijing to be “careful and respectful” in its handling in this crisis.

“We need to see the local authorities listening to the very serious concerns brought forward by Chinese citizens and their concerns around the decisions that the local authorities in Beijing have taken,” he said.

Mr. Bingley said he prefers the statement issued by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who wrote on Twitter: “As Beijing amasses troops at the Hong Kong border, now is the time for everyone committed to democracy, freedom, human rights, and the rule of law to stand with the people of Hong Kong, including the 300,000 ex-pat Canadians. Now, and in the coming days, we are all Hong Kongers.”

Montreal-born Jean-Christophe Clement has been living in the city for a decade and has participated in the protests. The employee of a finance software vendor, 49, recently registered to vote and said a federal party’s position on what’s happening in the region would “almost entirely set the tone” for his voting decision.

He said he would cast his vote for a politician who is “in support of the protection of rule of law and democracy in Hong Kong.”

Although escalating tensions in the city haven’t affected his daily life much, he said the China’s People’s Armed Police exercising in Shenzhen, on the border with Hong Kong, worries him.

“My concern would be PLA comes in and there’s martial law.”

Paul Evans, professor in the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, said Mr. Scheer’s invocation of Cold War imagery of Berlin and the rallying cry of democracy, human rights and the rule of law will likely appeal to some.

But from his own experience in Hong Kong, he said people in the region are more realistic about the limited options that the territory has operating in its Chinese context, and the ability for other countries to have an impact.

For some other Canadians in Hong Kong, candidates’ domestic policies will weigh more in their votes.

Nathaniel Chan, who grew up in Toronto, said politicians’ positions on the Hong Kong issue have “no bearing” in his ballot.

“I think when we vote in a national election, it should be mostly about the standard of living for people in Canada or policies that affect all Canadians.”

Mr. Desjardins of Elections Canada said they sent 857 ballot kits to international electors in Asia during the last election, but the agency does not provide data on the number of ballots returned, for security reasons.

The agency conducts outreach through a small digital ad campaign targeting electors abroad, according to Mr. Desjardins, and also places posters at embassies and consulates with information on voting.

It’s not enough, Mr. Bingley said.

“What hasn’t been in Hong Kong so far though is there hasn’t been a campaign by the federal government, by the consulate to get Canadians registered and to explain how to do it,” Mr. Bingley said.

“There needs to be concerted information campaign of how to do this.”

How to inject youth into Newfoundland and Labrador’s broken, greying democracy

Providing provincial voting rights to expatriates makes little sense. Provincial services are largely residency-based, unlike federal voting rights which are citizenship-based (even there I have serious reservations as noted in earlier posts):

And not convinced in any case that this will make much difference in overall voting trends and turn-out:

What does it mean to be a voter in a Canadian federation increasingly defined by wealth inequality and economic migration?

As public policy scholars, we argue that politicians, policy-makers and citizens alike need to start rethinking how to ensure everyone’s voice is heard in a regionally diverse federation. More specifically, we think that provinces have good grounds for extending voting rights to expatriate citizens. In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, extending the vote is particularly warranted.

That’s because of two issues plaguing Newfoundland and Labrador: People are leaving the province, and those who remain are growing older.

As two expatriate Newfoundland and Labradorians — one of us in Australia — we watched from the sidelines during this spring’s provincial election. It was so defined by negativity and an absence of social vision that it inspired a playful CBC podcast with the question: “Does anyone actually want to win the election?”

That things played out this way came as little surprise. The province is trapped between a need to get its financial affairs in order and politicians who look to spending increases instead of long-term solutions as a means of winning elections. The ruling Liberals, for example, opened their campaign with an extra $152 million for the budget, including a cut to the deficit reduction levy which had only come into effect in 2016.

Not sustainable

Every citizen of the province knows this approach is unsustainable. To put the fiscal situation in perspective, Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial debt is a whopping $21,221 per capita, the highest in Canada, and its debt servicing costs as a per cent of provincial revenues stands at 13.8 per cent compared to the next highest province, Quebec, at eight per cent.

The graph below shows that Newfoundland and Labradorians face a tricky demographic challenge.

The graph vividly portrays how rapidly Newfoundland is growing older. Author provided

The share of the population under 50 years of age has been shrinking for the past 45 years. Since 2000, the population in age quintiles (five-year intervals) has declined in every age group below 50, while increasing in every age quintile above 50. While the population, post-2000, has remained relatively stable, the composition of the province’s population is vastly different.

As the population ages, so too does the median voter.

Citizens who are older are understandably less likely to support long-term reforms that will cut into their more immediate interests. This means that proposing tough solutions to current fiscal problems can make it hard to win elections, especially if there is a rural/urban divide separating younger and older voters.

Unlike Newfoundland’s fiscally tough solutions of the past, we propose a solution that more greatly strengthens attachment to home: Allowing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians living outside the province to vote.

Youth injection

To cast ballots in Newfoundland and Labrador elections, voters must be provincial residents the day before polling day. We propose to extend the vote in a simple, transparent and inclusive manner to anyone 18 or older who has ever attended school in the province.

Why former students? First, many children of Newfoundland and Labrador have been lured or forced abroad to scratch out a living or seek their fortune. All have been victims of the lack of opportunity at home. Many of these people wish to return, and many do return, in their more senior years. Why should their voices not be heard at the provincial ballot box?

A recent study published in the Journal of Labor Economics suggests that the mobility of these workers has boosted pay in their province of origin. Wages rise because employers at home must hike pay to prevent more workers from leaving. This is a real economic gain, on top of any money that workers who leave their home province send back home.

Second, there is precedent — national voter eligibility is not determined by location, but rather by citizenship. The electoral district you vote in federally is determined by your current residential address, but your eligibility to vote is preserved by the government of Canada even when you are living abroad.

Third, consider the civic education that has been instilled in these individuals through the province’s school system. They have a respect for the people and the land, the traditions and the ambitions of their home province.

Generally speaking, we extend the vote to people because they are either directly affected by the collective decisions of government or because they are subject to the laws of that government. Expatriates easily satisfy the first of these two conditions. Provincial policies affect both their ability to return home and their loved ones who remain behind.

To be sure, extending the franchise is not a magic bullet that will immediately solve the province’s problems. And there are no doubt further questions about the voting mechanisms needed to make this proposal a reality.

But we think extending the vote to expatriates strongly aligns with the province’s values. It could also help nudge its politics closer to long-term solutions that respect the roots and rights of all Newfoundland and Labradorians past, present and future.

Source: How to inject youth into Newfoundland and Labrador’s broken, greying democracy

Elections Canada braces for a surge in international voters

Have written extensively against this extension and will be interesting to see what the take up will actually be and whether it is really an important issue for Canadian expatriates or not. The numbers below mentioned suggest it was not:

It was a short letter from Elections Canada — but for Gillian Frank, getting it felt like “an old wound had finally started to heal.”

“I was overjoyed,” said Frank, a Canadian living in the United States who received the letter earlier this month confirming his right to cast a ballot in the upcoming federal election.

For seven years, Frank and other Canadians living abroad fought for the right to vote in general elections and national referendums.

In December 2018, the Trudeau government passed Bill 76 — just a month before the Supreme Court of Canada shot down the 1993 law that prohibited Canadians who had lived outside Canada for more than five years from voting in Canadian elections, calling it a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Frank and fellow ex-pat Jamie Duong filed that charter challenge after being denied ballots in 2011. Bill 76 restored voting rights to all Canadians living abroad; the Supreme Court ruling prevents future governments from restoring the ban.

Number of international voters could triple

Since January, Elections Canada has been mailing out letters to Canadians abroad reminding them that they’re back on the international electors list.

“It felt like a moment of closure, a moment of real victory,” Frank said.

Elections Canada expects to see a surge in the number of mail-in or ‘special’ ballots. It estimates the number of Canadians voting from abroad could almost triple — from 11,000 voters in 2015 to 30,000 in 2019.

To cope with the demand, Elections Canada issued a tender in March for a new system to automate the way ballots are distributed.

“We are reducing the number of processes carried out by hand related to special ballots,” Elections Canada spokesperson Natasha Gauthier said in an email. “In automating these processes, we will reduce the number of staff required to handle the volume of ballots we receive.

“These optimizations will not include automated counting of ballots — all ballots will still be marked and counted by hand.”

‘We’re all Canadian citizens’

Duong said Canadians should not fret about the prospect of votes by Canadians living in the U.S. or Hong Kong swinging individual ridings. If it happens, it happens, he said.

“You can say that about any group. What if votes of people 65 and over change the outcome? What if votes [from voters aged] 18 to 25 change the outcome?” Duoug said.

“We’re all Canadian citizens. We all have a right to vote. So, yes our votes should matter. And they should possibly change the outcome of the elections.”

Former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley argues we’ll never know for sure whether the re-appearance of ex-pat voting in 2019 had any real effect on the outcome, since voting is secret. And while “it just takes one vote to swing a riding,” he said, the ex-pat vote likely isn’t going to have that kind of influence because Canadians abroad have to jump through a lot of hoops before casting ballots.

International voters, he said, have to register themselves on the international voter list, find which ridings they belong to, figure out who’s running, fill out their ballots correctly and then mail them in on time. They also have to pay the international postage themselves.

“These are all difficulties we do not have to overcome when we’re voting from Canada,” Kingsley said.

Source: Elections Canada braces for a surge in international voters