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Another Fiasco at the Voting Polls

By JIM MERRIAM
October 8, 2011

I was wrong.

Occasionally in the past I’ve thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken.

This was not one of those times.

I was wrong when I gave Elections Ontario the benefit of the doubt about the organization of the 2011 vote.

I even bought into its advertising and wrote of hope the process would be improved because “they have branded themselves as an organization that is on top of the issues.”

Not.

In our rural area, one experienced poll worker said, “It’s a total disaster. There’s always problems with the lists, but nothing like this.”

In fact, the lists and selection of polling sites have been so bad around our riding of Bruce- Grey-Owen Sound, that the outcome could have been affected
in a close election.

(It was a Conservative blowout, so that was not a worry.)

Voters often are insulted by being left off the list.

For that very reason, some folks whose names did not appear for the second or third time stormed out of polls without casting their ballots.

This election I was among those dropped from the list after having lived in the same house for 22 years.

Neighbours down the road were dropped, although their son, who lives with them and works on the home farm, was on the list.

And then there were the voting locations. Over those 22 years, we’ve always voted no more than a couple of kilometres away.

That must have been too simple for the wizards at Elections Ontario this time, since our poll was about seven kilometres away.

Twelve miles is no big deal, but I’ll give odds it kept some folks from casting their ballots, since they need only the slightest excuse not to bother voting
and a seven-km drive is a good one.

It gets worse.

In one nearby household, the wife was directed to polling station A, while the husband was on the list to vote at B, seven km away.

In pre-election advertising, Elections Ontario bragged about increased accessibility and more options for those who might be away, such as special ballots.

What good does all that do if bunches of people are dropped from the printed lists?

In publishing, errors can occur, even in the most well-regulated environments.

But if this year’s lists started from the ones before, there is no reason why any name should be dropped.

It’s a simple matter to copy and paste the last list onto this year’s blank page and start making changes from there.

To give the election officials their due, there is a form for complaints, which I was handed by a pleasant young poll worker.

It was in French.

(If you look up “unilingual” in the dictionary, you’re likely to find a map of this area).

Eventually I was able to complete one in English and fill out a form to vote. The form had a receipt attached to prove that I had asked to be added to the
list of electors.

Of course the receipt was for internal purposes.

I left with no proof I’d ever had a problem or had requested that I be returned to the list.

If they miss me again next time, they’ll be able to shrug and look vacant.

The more things change and all that. No one would argue against improved accessibility. But surely the seminal element in vote organization and accessibility is to be on the voters’ list.

jmerriam@bmts.com
Reproduced from http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3327757

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