OTTAWA – With four days remaining until the election, the Council of Canadians is raising concerns that, as it predicted, the “Fair” Elections Act is preventing some people from voting. The Council of Canadians launched VoteWatch in the lead-up to the advance polls last week, encouraging people to report on difficulties they witnessed with voting.
The response to VoteWatch has been significant with over 200 reports from across the country so far, including instances of people being unable to vote in advance polls in at least 10 ridings. One report to VoteWatch stated that 100 voters were turned away at a polling station in Okanagan-Coquihalla.
“From what’s been reported to us through VoteWatch, the Fair Elections Act is having a negative impact on voting in the advance polls,” says Dylan Penner, Democracy Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “We’re inspired that 3.6 million people voted this past weekend, but we remain concerned by the reports we’re receiving of people being turned away from several polling stations, some because they did not have the correct identification. This election will come down to incredibly close local races in a handful of ridings. If the same pattern is repeated on Election Day, it could affect which party ends up winning.”
There have been a variety of types of complaints including challenges with registration, identification problems, long line-ups, incorrect polling station information on Voter Information Cards, inappropriate advance polling stations (including northern ridings where they were in distant communities only accessible by plane), reports of ballots that already had marks next to candidates names (in three different ridings), misleading campaign materials (such as pamphlets incorrectly stating a candidate’s position on an issue), and suspicious phone calls claiming to be from Elections Canada.
“We’re encouraging people to get to their polling station as early as possible on Monday and to be patient. Elections Canada is doing the best it can with the cards it’s been dealt, but the new rules and the budget cuts are having an impact. It’s also timely to remind people about the widespread campaign of voter fraud targeting non-supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada that was perpetrated in the last election,” says Garry Neil, Executive Director of the Council of Canadians. “Stephen Harper and his Party may be trying to make it difficult for you to vote, but that’s one more reason you need to remain determined to cast your ballot.”
Anyone who witnesses or experiences any difficulties voting, or anyone receiving calls claiming to be from Elections Canada, is encouraged to report them to VoteWatch, as well as to Elections Canada.