Image: flickr/KCIvey

Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, is being touted as providing more transparency with respect to the use of “voter contact calling services” (see Division 1.1 of Bill C-23). In fact, the new rules will do nothing to curtail the type of voter fraud that occurred during the last federal election and which benefited Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) candidates who now sit in Parliament as the authors of the Bill.

Here is why.

To engage in robocall voter suppression — Guelph style — you need two things: one, $172.10 (the cost of having RackNine place over 7000 calls to non-CPC supporters misdirecting them to polling stations they could not vote at); and two, a list of people who don’t support your preferred political party. If you don’t have $172, you could try downloading a robocall program to your computer or mobile phone (preferably a burner phone that can’t be traced — the kind that Pierre Poutine used).

As for a list of non-party supporters, that’s free so long as you have access to a data base that has gathered that information. Access to such a data base is key — only political parties gather and store this kind of information because its expensive and time-consuming to do so. You can’t find lists of voter preferences on the internet, and access to the databases of political parties is strictly controlled. In the case of the fraud that occurred during the 2011 federal election, a justice of the Federal Court pointed to the CPC’s Constituency Information Management System (CIMS) as the likely source of the information about non-CPC supporters

We know, from documents filed with the Federal Court by the Commissioner of Elections that, in the days leading up to the 2011 election, someone downloaded from CIMS a list of non-CPC supporters in Guelph. The Court found that the CIMS database was the likely source for similar lists used to contact non-CPC supporters in other ridings across Canada. I can’t think of a legitimate reason to download a  list of non-party supporters on the eve of an election, nor did the CPC offer any explanation during the Federal Court proceedings.

So the key — and easiest — way to prevent voter fraud of the calling kind (robo or voice) is to impose accountability on political parties for the misuse of their databases.  Nothing in the Fair Elections Act would create any such obligation.

No surprise there, since the CPC has refused to disclose how many times lists of non-CPC supporters were downloaded in late April 2011, or by whom. Nothing in the Bill would require them to do so in the future, nor does it prevent the CPC from exporting such lists to a third party that might be less than vigilant in preventing unauthorized access.

Bill C-23 provides that authorized use of voter calling services must be reported to the CRTC – but it’s theunauthorized or the nudge-nudge, wink-wink kind of use that is the problem.

It’s not called voter fraud for no reason.

Image: flickr/KCIvey