Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Voting Process - Are There Loopholes That Should be Closed?

As you may have noticed, the recent election was run differently than previous elections, due to changes in provincial legislation.  As with all new processes, these changes led to some confusion in the process, and may have left openings for voter fraud that were not intentional, but should be tightened before the next election rolls around.

The most noticeable difference was that there was no voters' list.  In previous elections, you may recall, the polling clerk had a list of voters eligible to vote in whichever poll area they resided within. The list was usually made up from the previous election, and you could always get added to it either before the election or at the polling station, provided that you had adequate identification. When you voted, the clerk used a ruler and pencil to cross you off the list.  Very low tech, but effective.  At the last election, all voters were required to provide voter identification, which helped to prevent someone walking in a claiming to be someone else, and voting in their place.

This time, with no voters' list, you had to fill out a form identifying yourself and your address, and sign it in front of the poll clerk.  The form was then put into an envelope, and not looked at again. I know, because I asked. Another change - this time you could vote at one of several polls - not just at an advance poll or the poll in your neighbourhood, but there were also two super polls.  And with no master list where your name is crossed off once you've voted, that's where the opportunity for slipping through a loophole is.

For instance, you could fill out the form, and vote at the advance poll.  There were several opportunities to do that, and nothing stopping you from voting more than once.  On election day itself, you could vote at the polls in your ward, if there were more than one, then drop in at each super poll and vote again.

When a friend of mine pointed this out to an election official the response was disappointing, if predictable - was the suggestion being made that people would cheat in an election?  I'm sure that most people won't, just as I'm sure that most people won't steal my car.  But I still lock my car, because there are those people who will, given the opportunity.

And the solution is simple - have a master voters' list, and cross off someone's name as soon as they vote.

Another issue occurred with poll clerks telling people that they lived in a different ward.  I've had more than one person tell me that they told the clerk what ward they were in, pointed on the map, and the clerk then told them that they lived in a different ward, and sent them there.  In these cases, the clerk was wrong, the individual was right, but assumed that the clerk's training was better than their own knowledge.  Which it wasn't.

And finally, the ballot itself.  For the first time, it wasn't using a pencil to make an X, it was filling out an oval by the appropriate name.  What wasn't communicated to all voters was that you had to use the pen provided at the polling station, not the one in your pocket.  I almost used the pen in my pocket, then thought that perhaps I should use the one provided, and I know that some people will automatically use their own pen as a way of avoiding germs.  This has led to an unusually high number of ballots being recorded as blank - hard to believe that someone would go to the trouble of going to a poll and then not voting.

I don't believe that any of these potential loopholes were intentional, but I know that the first time trying new processes, in this case several new tweaks to the system, is bound to show weaknesses that should be fixed.  I only hope that our elected officials review the processes, and close off the loopholes, before the next election.

"I wish I could shut up, but I can't, so I won't." - Desmond Tutu

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