Alleged electoral fraud begs electoral reform

A Town Crier Community Column

In February, we had a terrific town hall meeting in St Paul’s on electoral reform and the need for a more proportional system.

The speakers were the Stephane Dion, Dave Meslin, Wayne Smith of Fair Vote Canada and Donna Dasko of Equal Voice. We were all concerned that in the present system a majority government can be elected with only 39 percent of the 59 percent of eligible Canadians who voted. There were many comments that the so-called “strong mandate” for this government was actually derived from a small minority of Canadians. It was a truly important discussion on how we can work together over the next few years to build the civic literacy that will enable a serious conversation on reform of the electoral system. As we were discussing the need for a more representative democracy, we had no idea of the seriousness of the allegation of election fraud that would surface a month later.

Electoral reform is truly important. Electoral fraud is criminal.

Sadly, we have received more and more reports of irregularities in the last federal election. Even here in St. Paul’s, Jewish voters were called during the first Passover Seder by callers misrepresenting themselves from the Dr. Carolyn Bennett campaign. We knew immediately that it wasn’t our campaign — we don’t use “Dr.” when referring to my campaign and we had made a decision NOT to call on the evening of April 18. On April 20, we reported these complaints to Elections Canada.

Throughout the campaign, voters were reporting they had been called numerous times by our campaign, when the truth was, we had not engaged a call centre at all in that campaign and the volunteers had barely been able to call the riding once. On election day, voters were called to be told that their polling station location had been changed — an outright lie. One constituent, when she questioned the caller, was also told that she could vote twice.

In recent years, we have come to learn about the new science of voter suppression; an anti-democratic tactic that falls short of outright election fraud. In his book Stealing Democracy, Spencer Overton documents the truly appalling tactics and strategies being used to turn off voters and keep them home on election day. These strategies are particularly effective for young people, women, aboriginals, tenants, and immigrants, all of whom tend to vote for more progressive parties. The theory is premised on the reality that those who vote for right-wing parties are very good at turning out to the polling stations regardless of the election issues, candidates, weather. They vote. The theory continues that the lower the voter turnout, the greater the influence the right-wing parties will have on the outcome of an election.

More recently, truly serious revelations ballot box thefts, and people not on the voters’ list swearing in and voting anyway have put the results of the last election in question. We believe Elections Canada and the RCMP must have the resources to get to the bottom of any irregularities in last year’s election.

I believe that a Royal Commission is necessary to be able to recommend the necessary changes to ensure our elections procedures and enforcement mechanisms are robust enough to ensure every Canadian can freely exercise their right to vote.

If you had any experience in the last election that now seems wrong, Elections Canada wants to hear from you. Call:1-800-463-6868 or email [email][/email].

If you think that there should be a public enquiry, Royal Commission to assess and make recommendations to ensure the integrity of our democratic processes, let the Prime Minister know by phoning 613-992-4211, faxing to 613-941-6900 or emailing to [email][/email].

About this article:

By: Carolyn Bennett
Posted: Apr 17 2012 12:13 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto