Don't Blame Canada

The FAMU Marching 100, from Florida A&M University performs during the halftime show of Super Bowl XLI football game at Dolphin Stadium in Miami on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
With one week until Canada's national elections, two things seem certain: Prime Minister Jean Chretien will be re-elected, and there will be no confusion counting the ballots.

That's because Canada has had one national ballot design for 80 years, reports CBS News Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman – no hanging chads, no lingering disputes.

District Election Supervisor Shirley Scaife, a veteran of five Canadian elections, says the same ballot, apart from the names, is used "coast to coast, Newfoundland to Vancouver, north to south."

The confusion caused by the Florida count has many Americans wondering whether there's a simpler way to do these things. Canada has grappled with electoral reform, too. The solution here: standardize the rules and centralize the system.

"The system is run by an independent organization whose sole existence is to run elections and who through the years have built up credibility with the population," says Chris Waddel, elections coordinator for CBC-TV.

The organization is called Elections Canada and it supervises everything. It dispatches ballots and ballot boxes, and maintains a permanent national voters' list.

Jean Pierre Kingsley, Canada's chief elections officer, says, "You've got to reach out to the people and make sure that the reasons they don't vote have nothing to do with the complexities of the system."

There's nothing complex about the counting – it's done by hand, with complete results in under an hour. And Canada recently reformed its poll closing times, too.

It used to be that in each of the country's six time zones the polls closed at 8 p.m. local time.

"You could, depending on what the vote was, say one party has formed the government before polls even closed in the second half of the country," says Waddel.

Sound familiar? Now the poll hours are staggered, so that 90 percent of the country's polls close at 9.30 p.m. ET.

So when the votes are counted here next Monday, it could be that the Canadians will be declaring a winner while Americans are left waiting and wondering.