Democracy cannot be taken for granted or disregarded for expediency
March 9th, 2012 - 3:17pm
The phone rings, you answer to the sound of a ship’s horn and (if you’re like most people) you hang up just as the recording gets to, “This is your captain calling…..”. You have been robocalled.
Just as counterfeit money shouldn’t focus on paper, election fraud and voter suppression allegations should not focus on automated phone calls. For the sake of a handy name, we might lose sight of what is being investigated and how those allegations are such a serious affront to our democratic process.
The fact is that political parties call voters during elections to try and contact supporters. During those phone calls, it is also possible to discover people who are not supporters. In an honest campaign, those non-supporters will not be contacted again as they do not warrant the attention of a candidate or party they admittedly do not support.
In this current ‘scandal’ there are few known facts. We do know that many voters in the riding of Guelph who identify themselves as Liberals received misleading phone calls on the day of the last federal election. The phone calls were made to sound as if they were coming from Elections Canada and directed those Liberal supporters to the wrong or non-existent polling stations.
The intent is obvious. Misleading and frustrating voters so that they do not vote. Callously assuming that people would believe the call and then give up when the misleading information lead them to a dead end. Even if every single targeted voter managed to cast a ballot, it is still fraud. Just as shoplifting is shoplifting when the perpetrator is caught and an item is returned.
Electoral fraud is a federal crime in Canada and can lead to fines or even prison time for guilty individuals. Preventing a person from voting by way of a fraudulent phone call is no different in the eyes of the law than doing so by physical means. Such laws are the mark of a mature democracy that recognizes barriers to open and fair elections.
Canada is viewed as a model democracy both internationally and domestically. As such, it is imperative the focus in this case stay firmly on the allegations of fraud. Whether political phone calls are annoying or should be subject to the do-not-call registry are matters of other debates not fraud investigation.
As I write this, the sands continue to shift under the issue. It is now being reported that thousands of late additions in a Toronto area riding may not meet the minimum requirement of providing an address in the riding – or a legitimate address in some cases. What is clear is that the rule of law must prevail. Elections Canada must be given the resources and freedom to investigate the allegations thoroughly.
We live in a good democratic country. How these issues are resolved will have much to do with keeping it that way.