With the election less than two weeks away, the Council of Canadians is launching VoteWatch, a service to report voter suppression Canadians may experience or witness.
“Preventing people from voting has been legalized for this election because of changes brought in by the ‘Fair’ Elections Act,” says Dylan Penner, Democracy Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “We’re launching VoteWatch to make sure that any incidents of voter suppression can be brought to light quickly and effectively.”
The service is not a substitute for official Elections Canada processes, and individuals are also encouraged to contact Elections Canada directly. Changes brought in by the Fair Elections Act, however, curtail the agency’s ability to notify the public in the event of widespread and orchestrated campaigns of voter suppression, which occurred in the 2011 federal election.
“We’re asking voters to be vigilant, given the fraudulent robocalls that marred the last general election and the changes to voter identification requirements,” says Garry Neil, Executive Director of the Council of Canadians. “If someone tries to stop you from voting or you can’t vote because of the new ID requirements, let us know.”
When it comes to potential election fraud, the Council of Canadians is encouraging voters to:
RECOGNIZE IT: Be aware that any call claiming to be from Elections Canada is fraudulent. Calls coming from the “Voter Outreach Centre” are from the Conservative Party of Canada. Be on the lookout for anyone being prevented from voting at the polls, instances of misleading or harassing calls, or other dirty tricks that may interfere with people voting.
RECORD IT: Write down what was said, the date and time. In the case of a suspicious phone call, write down the number the call came from. If you have a recording of the call or a video of the incident, keep it!
- REPORT IT: If you receive any suspicious calls or other communications, or if the new ID requirements make it difficult or impossible for you to vote, report it to www.canadians.org/VoteWatch.
Thousands of people could be prevented from voting due to the elimination of vouching and using voter information cards as proof of address – 400,000 people relied on voter information cards and 120,000 used vouching to vote in 2011. Meanwhile, the perpetrators of the 2011 election fraud are still at large and Canadians are concerned they could strike again.
The Council of Canadians is organizing to increase voter turnout through door-to-door canvassing, voter outreach at public events and on campuses, and reminding voters what ID they will need to vote. Thousands of people have already taken the Council’s voter pledge.
A 2014 study found a majority of Canadians are worried about the potential for fraud in this election. Polling indicates Canadians are more concerned about the 2011 robocalls scandal and a potential repeat in 2015 than either the Duffy or sponsorship scandals.