Election errors should 'worry' Canadians: former chief electoral officer
Published Wednesday, May 1, 2013 7:48PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 1, 2013 10:31PM EDT
Rampant procedural errors made by polling officials during the 2011 election has Canada’s former chief electoral officer worried.
An Elections Canada report revealed that about 165,000 votes seem to have been improperly cast in the last election due to “serious errors.”
That amounts to about 500 errors in each of Canada’s 308 ridings.
“The numbers obviously raise concerns and we need to be worried as Canadians,” Jean-Pierre Kingsley told CTV’s Power Play.
Elections Canada blamed poorly trained officials and overly complex rules for the errors affecting the majority of the paperwork filled out for voters proving their eligibility to vote.
Kingsley said the rules are, in fact, needlessly complex.
When someone shows up to vote and officials can’t find their name on the voters list, they have to be sent to a different line, causing some confusion, Kingsley said.
“This has added significantly to the complexity of the task,” he said. “You can do all the training you want, but if it’s very complex and the timeframes are limited, you wind up with problems.”
Kingsley also pointed to laws that have changed: on top of checking addresses, officials are now required to give candidates polling numbers every half hour, he said.
In the end, it’s Canadian democracy that suffers, said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.
Only 61.4 per cent of voters turned out for the 2011 election. That number was even lower for young Canadians -- just 38.8 per cent.
“People have to have confidence that their vote counts and that it will produce a result,” he told CTV’s Power Play. “If more and more people are convinced that the system is stacked against them, they’ll turn away.”
Mulcair also slammed the Conservatives over plans to cut Election Canada funding by eight per cent.
“That’s the last thing they should be doing,” Mulcair said. “We should be adding to the ability of Elections Canada to do its job properly.
“Canadians have to have confidence in our electoral system which is the bedrock of our whole democracy in Canada.”
During question period Wednesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the “suggestions for savings at Elections Canada were produced by Elections Canada itself, and after the election campaign.”
Harper said the Elections Canada audit “has exposed some quality control issues,” and the agency will accept the recommendations for improvement that are outlined in the report.
Tyler Sommers, of Democracy Watch, an advocacy group for democratic reform, said the government should go further.
“A full public inquiry is needed into Elections Canada,” he said.
With a report by CTV’s Omar Sachedina in Ottawa