Democracy. Noun, defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary threefold:
1. A form of government in which people choose leaders by voting.
2. A country ruled by democracy.
3. An organization or situation in which everyone is treated equally and has equal rights.
Democracy, then, is a free, fair and equal voting process to elect a democratic ruler. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Except recently, it seems as though the Conservative Government nationally would like Canadians to believe the whole “everyone treated equally” thing is just a pesky formality to a more esoteric, opaque version of democracy they proffer.
The proposed changes to the Canadians Elections Act, ironically titled the Fair Elections Act, will effectively deny thousands of Canadians the right to vote by abolishing the vouching process. It will give partisan Government more direct control over Elections oversight and keep Canadians in the dark on potential electoral fraud. In essence, it will make a mockery of free and ‘fair’ voting in our Canadian democracy.
Vouching is important for some who – due to reasons of immobility, age, living status – cannot make it to the polls. Vouching has been in effect for years and allows many to participate in the electoral process despite physical and other impediments to their mobility.
With this new Act, the Conservatives are rallying against the practice; citing a reduction in fraud as their battle cry.
Where are the statistics, data and factual evidence for fraud? The Conservative website entry labeled “Fair Elections Act – Cracking down on Voter Fraud” cites one report, the Neufeld report, as evidence of 25 per cent ‘irregularities’ in the 2011 polls concerning vouching. This is used as evidence to propose scraping the practice entirely.
Reading the Neufeld report itself demonstrates the actual number of ‘irregularities’ is cited at 1.3 per cent of all cases on election day of 2011 and ‘irregularities’ is never once defined as voter fraud.
In fact, the major case study of an overturned election result due to so-called irregularities – that of Etobicoke Centre in Ontario – was attributed to administrative error largely, with emphasis by the report that the decision to overturn “was made on the basis that important procedural requirements had not been met, and not due to evidence indicating that ineligible voters had been permitted to vote.”
So the case study of error wasn’t due to voter fraud at all, but administrative error. The Conservative website citing the report as evidence of vouching misconduct under the label of voter fraud is increasingly misleading: in fact, it’s lying.
The report also noted that overly complex language is the cause of most voter/officer confusion. Would not simplifying the language make more obvious sense than scrapping the procedure outright and potentially violating constitutional laws?
Instead of approaching the issue of possible fraud in an informed way and gathering more detailed data on this subject, the Government’s tactic is to abolish the procedure entirely without informed explanation. If they were serious about getting to the bottom of so-called fraudulent behaviour the Government could feasibly research the actual ‘fraud’ status of these voting techniques rigorously during the next election to ensure true, concrete data exists to support the theory that voter fraud is at work with the vouching system.
But then again we do live in a Canadian democracy, where legally-binding changes are tied to subjective time-frames, not indisputable evidence. Fair, eh?
Part two of this opinion piece will appear in next week’s paper.