Apart from the Significant advances in election law and administration had occurred before the advent of the Charter – denial of the franchise on the basis of gender, religion, race, ethnicity and income had been removed from the law, and administrative steps had been taken to improve access to the vote for people with disabilities, people away from home on election day and members of the public service and the military serving abroad.
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Even when improvements in election law were proposed – for instance, extending advance polling to groups other than railway workers and commercial travellers – they sometimes provoked resistance in Parliament.
We have seen, for example, how it took 50 years to extend advance voting to everyone who wanted it; each time a new group was given the "privilege" of advance voting, there was opposition, generally on the basis of cost or administrative convenience.
In addition, some citizens' electoral participation had also been curtailed: civil servants in some jurisdictions, for example, were prohibited from engaging in activities that would reveal partisan preferences.
At the same time, there was mounting interest in addressing public perceptions of influence peddling, stemming from the fact that the financial activities of political parties and third-party advocates were essentially unregulated.
Someone denied the franchise, for example, could appeal to the courts; if the appeal were successful, the courts might strike down part of the law or require changes in the administrative rules that resulted in disenfranchisement – and this has indeed happened frequently since 1982.
Since the introduction of the Charter, there have been over 30 court cases involving electoral matters.
Yet the efforts to appease such perceptions, by adding restrictions on electoral financing to the , also fuelled numerous Charter-based court challenges, with alleged infringements of the right to freedom of expression – guaranteed under section 2 of the Charter – being the most commonly cited cause for legal recourse.
As well, restrictions on broadcasting, third-party advertising and the publication of opinion polls during election campaigns faced similar tests under the section 2 guarantees.
Serving the public trust demanded more than simply administering the electoral legislation – it demanded an approach that was strategic and proactive.