Voter suppression may have significantly influenced election results, activists say

Over 100 people turned up in front of the Harry Hays building in downtown Calgary over the weekend to voice their dissatisfaction with allegations of voter suppression.

Elections Canada has received thousands of complaints of misleading calls directing voters to the wrong voting stations on last May’s federal election day.

Anke Kessler, an economist with Simon Fraser University, recently conducted a study and told Postmedia News that the misleading calls could be responsible for 1,000 to 2,500 fewer votes on average per riding. The calls appeared to be concentrated in hotly-contested ridings that traditionally voted Liberal or NDP, which allegedly may have benefited the Conservatives enormously.

John Bransfield, an activist attending the rally, felt that the robocalls contributed to Stephen Harper’s majority government.

“Our first-past-the-post electoral system is broken,” he said, adding that poor voter Over a hundred people gathered in front of the Harry Hays building downtown on Sunday, hearing speakers denounce the robocall scandal.
Photo by: Geoffrey Picketts
turnout is one of the biggest problems facing Canadian democracy.

Mark Gilmour, another activist, said he is disillusioned by the revelations and sees the robocalls as a symptom of a flawed electoral process.

“Our representative democracy has turned into a tyranny of the minority,” he said.

Only 61 per cent of eligible voters participated in the last federal election, with 40 per cent of those votes going to the Conservative party. In other words, only 24 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots for Canada’s current majority government.

“It’s an absolute disgrace,” said O.J. Zawalsky, an activist with the Raging Grannies in Calgary.

“But then again, I think it’s a disgrace that Mr. Harper is the Prime Minister with a majority when 62 per cent of people who voted, voted for somebody else.”

A system of proportional representation was touted by some activists as a means to make every vote count and help boost voter turnout. Gilmour also said that constituents should have the ability to recall their member of Parliament in between elections if they failed to fairly represent citizens in their riding.

While broad reforms may take time to implement, Zawalsky proposed an immediate course of action that the government should take in light of these allegations.

“I think there should be a public inquiry (investigating the robocalls), a royal commission on why voter turnout is so low, and by-elections called in the ridings with the most complaints,” she said.

Also see: Photo gallery of Sunday’s rally.

gpicketts@cjournal.ca