Created on Friday, 10 October 2008 22:51
Written by Chris Cook
Stephen Harper Wants Your Vote (enough to try steal it?)
by C. L. Cook
In 2006, Stephen Harper's Conservatives brought in Bill C-31, an
instrument designed, among other things, to making democracy more safe
for...Stephen Harper's Conservatives.
Taking a page from Karl Rove's
electioneering playbook, the Conservatives adopted provisions of the
notorious Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that make voting more difficult
for people not generally found among the conservative voting base of
either America or Canada: the poor, indigent, seniors living in care
facilities, immigrants, and young, first-time voters.
C-31 is the fruit of a special committee struck with the goal of: "Improving the Integrity of the Electoral Process."
That that integrity was never seriously in question was never questioned. Instead, the committee went about proving their necessity, issuing a report outlining dangers to Canadian democracy.
These they broke down into three main areas of concern: Accuracy of the National Register of Electors; voter identification at the polls; and, voter fraud.
As critics of the HAVA in the U.S. point out
, cases of voter fraud are virtually impossible to find in America, as in Canada, but the committee soldiered on, issuing decidedly tepid warnings of the less than imminent threat to the free vote.
Regarding voter identification at the polls:
- "Many Canadians have expressed concern about the potential for fraud
and misrepresentation in voting. Members of the Committee share this
concern. While we have no means of knowing how widespread this problem
is, the fact that it exists undermines the integrity of the electoral
process. To an extent, the concern stems from the unreliability of the
Register of Electors, and the lack of confidence that many of us have
in the permanent voters list."
Reading that paragraph a couple times reveals the grasping need the
committee has to come up with something to hang their raison d'etre on.
"Many Canadians have expressed concern..."?
Which Canadians? How "many"? What "potential" for fraud?
And the kicker:
- "While we have no means of knowing how widespread this problem is..."
Is there a means of knowing if this problem is entirely a creation of
the "New Government" of Stephen Harper, designed to "cage" voter lists
as has been done these past two elections by Harper's southern allies
in the Republican party?
Jason Younis takes up the issue
in his article for Monday Magazine, 'Why Fix What Ain't Broke?' In the article, Younis quotes Canada's current Chief Electoral officer and his predecessor's testimony to a Canadian Senate investigation of the issue of voter fraud.
- "Senator Baker: â€œYou said there is no evidence of fraud. You have investigated it. Yet, one of the main purposes of this legislation, the principle of the bill, according to the committees, is to prevent voter fraud. Yet you claim there is no voter fraud.â€
- Mr. Mayrand: â€œThere was no evidence of voter fraud when we investigated. Again, we are dealing very much with the perception of the rules of voting.â€
- Mayrandâ€™s predecessor, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, drew the same conclusion when he said, â€œI have no evidence that would lead me to believe that there has been any fraud in this country, based on the testimony heard. I have no evidence.â€
Younis goes on to quote University of Victoria political science professor, Dennis Pilon saying:
- â€œI think what theyâ€™ve done is taken advantage of various political events where people are frightenedâ€”frightened of immigrants, frightened of terrorists, frightened of various wrongdoersâ€”so weâ€™ve got to tighten up security and this has become part of the security agenda.â€
Fear seems a recurring factor in the committee's approach to solving this "problem." Subsection 6.2 recommends signage be affixed prominently in polling stations, warning the hoards of would-be vote fraudsters of the penalties available to punish their considered transgressions.
The committee hasn't forgotten those thousands of recent emigres to Canada, perhaps taking part in the democratic process for the first time. For these they suggest:
- "The Committee further recommends that warning signs be well-displayed in both official languages as well as any other language that may be widely used in a given poll or electoral district."
Those malleable "any other languages" could well be tailored by the current "New government" and future newer ones to include more, or less prominently those "others" less sympathetic to ruling sympathies. It would doubtless make the new Canadians shoring up here from dictatorships feel right at home.
In the case of Canadians unused to the rigorous poll booth controls practiced in Zimbabwe and Florida, another of the committee's hoped for adaptations to the Canadian voting experience is the further defining, as in a muscular strengthening of, the roles and powers of candidate's representatives.
These representatives are the goons who in the United States and other banana democracies hang around voting stations like so many chads, challenging the rights of certain "identifiable" citizens to vote.
In Canada, where the majority of visible minorities still support the Liberal party, this would be black, brown and white simple.
Thankfully that beefing-up attempt has failed so far, but voters may still be challenged by a candidate's rep.
I recommend looking at the both Jason Younis' piece and Garrett Epps' from the Nation to get a clearer picture of what Canadians can expect from a returned Harper government.
Elections Canada's ID expectations are below.
a. Proof of Identity and Address (Clauses 14 and 21)
In response to the Committeeâ€™s concerns, the government proposed a series of amendments in clause 21 of the bill that closely followed the detailed recommendations of the Committee.(12) Clause 21 amends section 143 by requiring that prospective voters provide one piece of identification, issued by any level of government, containing a photograph and the name and address of the elector (section 143(2)(a)). Alternatively, the voter may present two pieces of identification, each of which establishes his or her name, and one of which establishes his or her address, if those pieces of identification have been authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer (section 143(2)(b)). These alternative pieces of identification may be authorized regardless of who issued them (section 143(2.1)). The amendments require the Chief Electoral Officer to publish, each year and within three days of the issue of an election writ, a list of the types of identification that are adequate alternatives to government-issued photo identification (section 143(7)).
In response to concerns raised during the House of Commons Committee hearings by a number of witnesses, the bill was amended to provide that a document issued by the Government of Canada certifying a person to be an Indian within the meaning of the Indian Act constitutes an authorized piece of identification under section 143(2)(b) (section 143(2.2)).
The new requirements for proof of identity will be communicated to voters in advance through the voter information card, referred to in the Act as the â€œnotice of confirmation of registration.â€ Clause 14(2) amends section 95(2) to require that voter information cards contain a notice that proof of an electorâ€™s identity and residence is required before the elector will be permitted to vote.