Friday, 15 April 2011

Conservative Party asks Election Canada to nullify votes cast at the University of Guelph

Okay, now I'm really outraged.

Voter participation has been declining for decades, especially among young people. Only 37% of people between 18 and 24 voted in the most recent election.

Wednesday, Elections Canada ran a successful polling station at the University of Guelph.
... a steady queue of students lined up to vote at a special ballot set up in University Centre by Elections Canada. The strong turnout came in the thick of final exam time. Their ballots will be counted on election day May 2, Anne Budra, returning officer for Elections Canada said.

Budra said the special ballot was exceptionally well attended. It was set up, she explained, because many U of G students won’t be in Guelph for advanced polls on April 22, 23 and 25, or on election day. Students registered to vote on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

However, there appeared to be a contravention of election rules outside of University Centre, where some individuals passed out party literature to students in an effort to persuade voters. It is against election rules to engage in such practices in the vicinity of a voting station, Budra explained. Once made aware of it, election officials curtailed the activity throughout campus during the special ballot.

“It’s really important to get people interested in voting,” said [Alastair] Summerlee, when asked why he consented to turn blue. [Summerlee, the university president, had agreed to be painted blue if 1500 students would pledge to vote.] “The team here has done an amazing job at actually getting people aware of the election and making sure that they get out and vote. Anything I can do to help with that is great.”
The following day: Conservatives ask Elections Canada to nullify votes cast at U of G Wednesday
No votes cast Wednesday in a special ballot at the University of Guelph should stand, according to the Conservative Party of Canada.

The party wrote Elections Canada on Thursday to request that none of the votes collected during the U of G session be included in the final tally of votes in the Guelph riding. The letter was sent by lawyer Arthur Hamilton, of Toronto-based law firm, Cassels Brock.

In his letter, Hamilton alleges the polling station was illegal and also that partisan election material was present at it, which is a violation of the Canada Elections Act.

The polling station in question was located on the main floor of University Centre, where approximately 700 students cast sealed ballots.

Elections Canada media advisor James Hale said this was the third election during which the University of Guelph held a special ballot on campus. And this is the first time it’s ever been challenged, Hale said.

“Part of our mandate is making the vote as accessible as possible. So, we look at outreach programs,” Hale said.

Hale said special ballot polling stations are often held for groups of people who consistently display less-than-average voter turnouts, such as students, First Nations, seniors and the disabled.

“It’s never been challenged, not to my knowledge,” Hale said.
If there was partisan election material present, the appropriate action would be to sanction the parties providing the partisan material--not to discard 700 votes.

Here's the letter from the Conservative Party to Elections Canada, demanding that the votes not be counted.

The article also notes that a Conservative scrutineer attempted to grab one of the ballot boxes.
Several University of Guelph students claim Michael Sona, the communications director for Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke, attempted to put a stop to voting at the special ballot held Wednesday.

The students say Sona approached the Elections Canada balloting site claiming that the process unfolding at the location was illegal and at one point reached for but never took possession of a container with ballots.

“He tried to grab for the ballot box. I’m not sure he got his hand on the box, but he definitely grabbed for it,” said Brenna Anstett, a student, who at the time of the reported incident was sealing her second of two envelopes containing her vote.

Student Claire Whalen was just about to receive her ballot just before 5 p.m. when the episode unfolded.

“That’s when a guy came up and said it was an illegal polling station and that he was confiscating the ballots. And then he tried to take (the ballot box),” Whalen said.

Whalen also identified the man as Sona.
What's so outrageous about this is that we depend on Elections Canada, an independent and non-partisan agency, to ensure that the vote is fair. The Conservatives have already tried to claim that Elections Canada was targeting them unfairly in the in-and-out scandal, in which the Conservatives violated election funding rules. The courts disagreed: four of their top fundraisers are now facing criminal charges.

And now the Conservatives are demanding that Elections Canada do what they want, namely discard the entire poll. Their scrutineer blatantly violated the rules against interfering with ballots (there's no word on whether he's going to face any sanctions or charges).

Our electoral system (and the legitimacy of our political system) depend on a fair vote, which in turn depends both on an independent agency to conduct the vote according to agreed-upon rules, and political parties which are willing to follow the rules. But it seems that the Harper campaign, in its zeal to win a majority, is not willing to follow the rules.

They're trying to steal a majority. Time to throw the bastards out.

1 comment:

  1. Will Arthur Hamilton be arrested and charged for obstruction of the electoral process or something of that nature?