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Dear Ryan: Take a stand against voter suppression!

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Open Letter to Ryan Leef, MP for Yukon

Dear Ryan,

Voter suppression can help the unscrupulous win elections. 

Negative politicking in the form of vicious smear campaigns and fear/hate mongering are straight from the playbooks of the cynical strategists who have been advising Republicans for decades and Stephen Harper more recently.

Negative politicking can ruin the reputations of political opponents in the minds of the uninformed.  Social conservatives, who are driven by ideology rather than fact-based evidence, vote in droves when their worst instincts are appealed to. 

But the greatest power of negative campaigning lies in its ability to create apathy amongst the general population, turn them off politics and keep them from voting.

Negative campaigning is a form of voter suppression.

In the original version of the Unfair Elections Act, Bill C-23, it was clear that voter suppression was on the menu. The Voter ID cards were disallowed with the trumped up excuse that voter fraud was rampant. The list of allowable ways for voters to identify themselves was limited. A prohibition on vouching would have disenfranchised thousands of Canadians outright. 

After a broad-based public outcry, limited vouching was permitted.

Nevertheless, some Yukoners are going to find it difficult to register to vote in the upcoming election because they lack photo ID; First Nations in remote communities, women seeking refuge in shelters, seniors, the homeless and students.  

Conservative policies affect all of these groups adversely. It would be to the advantage of the Conservative Party if certain people did not vote.

Bill C-50, the Citizen Voting Act, disenfranchises Canadians working abroad for more than five years. Canadians working abroad for less then five years, have extra hoops to jump through in order to vote.

My sister taught in China for two years. She was unable to vote in the last election because she had to register through the Canadian Embassy in Shanghai, a five-hour bus trip away. The embassy was only open mornings during weekdays.

Bill C-50 was hardly necessary to disenfranchise ex-pat Canadians when massive cuts to the Foreign Service by the Conservative government did the trick.

It must be noted that the majority of Canadians working abroad are able to do so because they are highly educated. Consequently, they are less likely to vote for a crudely manipulative political party with a regressive worldview.

As you know, Pierre Poutine was responsible for sending false polling station directions -- through robo-calls and call-centre calls -- to opposition party supporters throughout Canada in 2011. He was never apprehended. 

In 2011, only five individuals, from Guelph where the robo-calls originated, had access to the Conservative Party Constituent Information Management System (CIMS), Andrew Prescott, John White, Ken Morgan, Trent Blanchette and Chris Crawford. Federal Court justice Richard Mosley is of the opinion that the caller information for these crimes came from CIMS.

During the trial of junior staffer and sacrificial goat, Michael Sonas, conservatives were deemed by Judge Mosley to have conducted "trench warfare" to avoid answering questions. Andrew Prescott plea-bargained and changed his story throughout the Sonas trial. Ken Morgan went into exile in Kuwait to avoid having to testify.

At that time, Elections Canada did not have the power to compel witnesses to testify. Instead of correcting this problem, the Conservative government created the Unfair Elections Act, which further crippled Elections Canada. As a result, it will be harder for authorities to identify, investigate and prosecute future electoral crimes. Furthermore, Elections Canada is forbidden from reporting electoral crimes to the public. 

Will criminals posing as Elections Canada officials misdirect voters again? What other tactics will Pierre Poutine use? 

One way to turn voters away from their party of choice is to send them obnoxious robo-calls, purportedly from those parties, in the middle of the night. This is a common ploy used by Republicans.  

Conservatives tried to have University of Guelph special ballots disallowed in 2011. Will there be attempts to disenfranchise students at Yukon College?

Ryan, we must be vigilant.

Yukoners are going to receive a lot of calls in the near future, be it from machines or human beings. Why not record the content, the time, the date, the name of the organization and the call number? By law, whoever is responsible for election related calls must self identify.

Elections Canada has posted a list of possible identifications that people can use to register. Why not give aid to a Yukoner you know who might not have photo ID?

If you believe you have been subject to or witnessed an electoral crime, inform the police, the media and everyone you know right away. Make a very big noise.

Every Canadian of voting age has the sacrosanct right to vote. No exceptions.

Linda Leon

Linda Leon is not now, nor has she ever been, a member of any federal political parties. 

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