Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Action Is Needed after Elections Canada Found Widespread Irregularities in the Last Federal Vote

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Action Is Needed after Elections Canada Found Widespread Irregularities in the Last Federal Vote

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Action is needed after Elections Canada found widespread irregularities in the last federal vote

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published May 6:

Already shaken by the "robocalls" scandal, Canadian confidence in our election system has suffered a fresh blow with a new report revealing that an average 536 "serious administrative errors" occurred in the last federal vote, in each of our 308 ridings.

"Obviously, this is unacceptable," concludes the study commissioned by Elections Canada. "Public trust in proper administration of the electoral process is at serious risk."

The report, authored by former British Columbia chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld, includes several proposals to fix the system. They should be enacted with all possible urgency.

The problem centres around potential electors who aren't on the registered voters list and therefore require special paperwork that -- all too often -- is bungled by local polling officers.

On studying 1,000 polls in the last election, plus three byelections, Neufeld found that about 15 per cent of voters needed an "exemption" because they weren't on the official list. Widespread errors were made processing these cases, including "irregularities that can contribute to an election being overturned."

All this marred the vote of about 165,000 people -- more than the population of Prince Edward Island.

This isn't a matter of one party or another attempting to steal the election or unscrupulous electors trying to skew a local result. There's no mysterious "Pierre Poutine" at work here, as with robocalls. Instead, according to Neufeld, this is a problem of needlessly tangled paperwork coupled with polling staff inadequately trained to meet the challenge.

"Most Canadian election officers struggle to administer complex rules," he wrote, adding it's the fault of the system at large. "More than 200,000 election officers need to be recruited and trained, most often for a single day's work that happens only once every few years."

Neufeld proposes a simplified system complete with more supervisors overseeing the polls, more training for election officers, and a stripped-down exemption process. …

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