Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Senator Frum and Minister Poilievre Have a Strange--and Suspicious--Set of Priorities When it comes to Electoral Reform

Senator Frum seems to think that the route to higher voter participation lies not only outside the offices of Elections Canada, but primarily through the mechanism of restoring "integrity and public confidence" by demanding higher "common sense"  requirements of voter identification, even though there is no evidence that low turnout has in in any way been caused by questionable vouching for students and otherwise marginal voters and its supposed impact upon voter confidence in, or perceptions of,  the integrity of  the electoral process.  She and Minister Poilievre rely heavily on the 42% error rate in vouching, but that error rate is not linked in any significant way to specific cases of voter fraud. 

She also relies explicitly upon pages 23 to 27 of Harry Neufeld's report, which stresses the need to reduce error rates and to move to a new services model -- but in those very pages Neufeld stresses improved training for officials and the need to reduce, not increase, barriers to voting, and then goes on to discuss the New Brunswick model for accomplishing just that.  In his testimony to the Senate Committee, Mr. Neufeld himself  stated that “[i]In its current form, Bill C-23 creates a fundamental imbalance between accessibility and integrity.”

Which raises the questions of why this government persists in its misplaced and unbalanced focus on integrity, which is formulated unnecessarily at the expense of access, and its misplaced focus upon reducing vouching (as opposed to reducing the need for  vouching and registration without discouraging turnout) as a means of achieving integrity.  Why not simply weigh the competing arguments of Mr. Neufeld's report  and the response to it by the Chief Electoral Officer and other experts, and make that the focus of "common sense" reforms?

Nothing in Senator  Frum's comments on CBC radio have satisfactorily answered those questions.

The onus is not upon the critics to show that the government is not being self-interested; the onus is upon the government to demonstrate that it is not being self-interested. One traditional way of doing that is simply by stating that the controversial elements of the Elections Act will only take effect after next year's election.

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