A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Those Questionable Polls

There have been a number of comments that the overturned election results at Etobicoke Centre was due to a failure of Elections Canada and whilst it is true that they are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the rules are followed there are a few things that are not being said.
It must be understood that each location (with more that one individual poll) has a 'Central Poll Supervisor' in overall charge and a 'Deputy Returning Office' and a 'Poll Clerk' for each poll who are charged with working together to identify and record those who wish to vote, and the voters name and addresses against the list when registering voters. I note however that “The Deputy Returning Officer is solely responsible for deciding on accepting or rejecting a piece of identification”. These individuals are generally simply folks who want to earn a few extra dollars by working for elections Canada for 14 or 16 hours on election day. They receive a brief training prior to the day (the Supervisor more than the others) and are then pretty much on their own.

It is clear that either they did not receive sufficient training, the returning officer and or the supervisor was corrupt or incompetent, or there was a deliberate effort by some of the individuals at these polls to sway the vote. It is, in my mind, these possibilities that need investigation. I make no allegations as to who these folks are but will say that there are no real checks as to their political affiliation, indeed political partys are generally asked to submit the names of interested individuals who wish to work the polls. I further note that political partys can, if they wish, provide 'observers' at poll locations, I do not know if there were such at these polls. Were the questionable polls clustered at one or more particular locations and thus under the control of one or two Supervisors, to whom the rest of the staff report, I don’t know, but it seems passing strange that identification and paperwork protocols were not followed.

Elections Canada has a series of protocols established for any situation that arises during the voting process (including for individuals not on the voters list) the DRO, Returning Officers and Clerks are provided with an extensive booklet setting out the methods and actions to be taken, up to and including how to lay out the tables and voting booths! There is NO excuse for not following such rules and I put the blame squarely upon the clerks and officers at the individual polls. It seems to me whist there is no need to vilify these individuals unless deliberate malfeasance has taken place on their part they should at least be asked 'what were you thinking, were you not told how to handle this?' Perhaps individuals who are found to have knowingly ignored the rules should be restricted from such responsibilities in future elections.

Insofar as an unregistered voter is concerned an elector may be vouched for by an elector who is on the list for that polling division, both individuals must provide proof of identity and address. An elector who has been vouched for may not vouch for another elector and the DRO must administer the oath to both individuals. The Poll Clerk shall record the electors Name and Address in the 'poll book'. If such identification is not provided (and recorded) then the individual may not vote.

Was there a deliberate attempt to overwhelm the staff with many unregistered voters who require extra time, procedures and paperwork at the last minute just before the polls closed, I don’t know but some reports at the time seemed to indicate that this might have been part of the problem. I note that anyone already inside when the polls close is processed and counting proceeds after they have voted and left the premises. I do note that after 12 straight hours without a break with a further 1 or more hours probable in order to count the ballots almost anyone may have a tendency to do whatever they have to to 'get it over with'. There are no provisions for a Returning Officer or Poll Clerk to leave their station other than to close that poll. The provision of one or more 'alternative' Clerks or Officers at the location would do much to smooth out some of the stress that can occur when polling stations become overwhelmed with voters who are upset with the vulgarities of identification or who have been waiting a while to vote.

Having established that the results are invalid due to improper identification procedures let us find out why this happened and take steps to see that it does not happen again. To do that we must know the details of how such errors occurred, perhaps EC is doing so but given the speed with which their investigation into the
robocall mess is proceeding my faith in them is rapidly diminishing, probably much to the delight of those that want to bend the rules!

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