Friday, October 17, 2008

Why Not Break It, Smash It, Ruin It?

Here's a guy, Jason Youmans, standing up to fight the good fight. He's a guy after my own heart arguing that the crazy new Canadian election rules are tilted against the little guy...

Why Fix What Ain’t Broke?

Posted by: Jason Youmans
09/17/2008 8:00 AM

As democracy watchers wring their hands over declining voter turnout, our federal government just made it harder to cast a ballot

Taking a page straight from the U.S. Republican Party’s playbook of dirty electioneering, legislation passed by Canadian parliament in 2007 will make it more difficult for citizens at society’s edges to cast ballots when the country goes to the polls on October 14.

Recent amendments to the Canada Elections Act under Bill C-31 will, among other things, require all voters to prove their identity and residential address prior to receiving a ballot at their polling station. For those with a fixed address and government-issued photo ID, the new law will be little more than a footnote on their day of democratic duty. But for those who live on the streets, senior citizens in residential care and anyone prone to a more transient lifestyle like students and low-income earners, Bill C-31 sets new hurdles to clear before being given the okay to exercise their constitutionally-enshrined right to vote.

Also swept away by the new legislation is the ability of a registered elector to vouch for the identity of an unlimited number of other registered electors. With the implementation of Bill C-31, one elector can now vouch only for the identity of one other elector in his or her polling precinct. That means individuals who used to swear an oath on behalf of groups of electors—say, an advocacy lawyer on behalf of a bloc of homeless voters—are out of luck.

Opponents of C-31 say those who control the levers of Canada’s electoral system should be working to make the democratic process less onerous, not more so, if the country’s declining turnout is to be reversed at a time when 35 percent of eligible voters stayed home during the last election in January 2006.

Bill C-31 was introduced by former Conservative democratic reform minister Rob Nicholson with the explanation that strengthening identification requirements would prevent manipulation of the electoral system. In a January 31, 2007, speech to parliament, Nicholson’s successor in the post, Peter Van Loan, told the House of Commons, “Addressing voter fraud is the core reason for Bill C-31. The potential for voter fraud hurts the integrity of our electoral system and undermines public confidence in the voting process. In fact, every time someone votes fraudulently, it undermines the legitimate say of every other voter. We all lose a little when that fraud takes place.”

There’s just one problem with Van Loan’s argument: the highest-ranking officials at Elections Canada have made repeated public statements that voter fraud is a negligible factor in the outcome of the country’s general elections. [emphasis added]
Sadly, voter turnout dropped to the lowest since Confederation. Instead of 35% staying home. This time it was 41%. So the right wing achieved its goal of restricting the vote. Youmans saw it coming. Read his whole article to get the bigger picture of how this new law was introduced under a deception.

Here's my earlier attempt to comment on this issue.

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