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CONTRIBUTION · 23rd January 2011
Gordon Wilson
Sanctioning the televote will lead to widespread election fraud Source Here.

If we give a damn about our democracy, we had better sit up and pay attention to what is going on. While a discussion about electoral procedures may cause some eyes to glaze over, how we select our leaders and ultimately elect our political representatives is fundamental to the protection of our democratic freedoms.

Both major parties in British Columbia have selected to use a televote and online voting method that assigns a personal identification number, or PIN to every “eligible” member. We are told this method of selecting the next Premier and Leader of the Official Opposition, is modern and more democratic, and an improvement on people having to show up in person to prove they exist and are actually eligible to support a candidate.

What absolute nonsense!

This approach to casting a ballot has been used at least once before in this province. It was railroaded through the Liberal convention in 1993 by the supporters of Gordon Campbell because they figured out how easy it would be for an unscrupulous, well-financed campaign to win the leadership.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that the televote system used in 1993 was wide open to abuse and involved outright fraud. As shocking as that might sound, the leadership rules committee for the Liberal Party wouldn’t hear complaints, neither would the party executive, and most of the media passed off evidence of fraud as nothing more than sour grapes from losing candidates because the party itself declared its system valid. The system being used by most major parties 17 years later hasn’t appreciably changed.
The televote and electronic online voting system is first and foremost only as good and credible as the registration process that determines an “eligible” party member and provides the voters list.

In the heat of a leadership campaign there are many people out signing up new members for the candidate of his or her choice, and rarely does the party have the resources to check every name on the list to find out if 1. The person exists or 2. The person filled out a form to be a member. Frequently these “checks” are left to the canvasser working for a particular leadership candidate who, by signing the membership form, asserts that the individual meets the criteria. Hands up how many people are shocked to learn that many canvassers lie in order to plump the numbers of voters for their candidate.

In the case of the 1993 Liberal leadership contest, the lists consisted of names of dead people, people who lived abroad, fictional characters, dogs, and even a few goats. The forms suggested that all of these ‘eligible voters’ had been verified by the canvassers, and none of the names were checked by the individuals overseeing the contest (the rules committee) who frankly were all fully aware of the fraud. Stacks of membership forms and a big chunk of money were handed in as evidence of ‘new members’. It cost someone $25 for each membership in order to qualify the ‘member’ for a vote. The result was that each of these fraudulent voters was assigned a PIN, which was mailed to box offices or addresses. Some addresses had over a dozen PINs mailed to them.

All of these PIN numbers, along with those of other “members” who gave their name and address but had no intention of getting involved in the campaign, were collected by the Campbell campaign. They were taken to offices where banks of telephones were set up for the day of the Leadership Convention and televote so that the PIN numbers could be phoned in and registered as votes for Gordon Campbell. People working in either a volunteer or paid capacity dutifully dialled in the votes to win the leadership for Campbell. These phone banks were in real estate offices or lawyers’ offices, and they had stacks of PIN numbers for both real and fictional members.

It was so blatantly fraudulent that when the assigned time for voting was up, we on the floor of the convention were told by the convention rules committee by loudspeaker that the time provided for voting was to be extended because they had been informed that not all of the votes had been phoned in!

Assuming that a free, honest and open democracy is important, the growing signs that this kind of fraudulent behaviour is becoming systemic, expected, and even accepted are of real concern. Consider the reward for Gordon Campbell: no accountability even though everyone knew how he received the leadership and an unchallenged rule for about 17 years, including the premier’s seat.

So what is happening today?

Take as an example the recent revelations that the NDP executive are prepared to accept the last-minute influx of thousands of NDP memberships that did not conform to the posted set of rules. These rules were put in place in response to the fraud committed during the February 20, 2000 leadership race that elected Ujjal Dosanjh to the role of leader of the NDP and the office of Premier. In that case, there were large numbers of people signed up who were ineligible by the party rules because they were dead or, what should be considered worse for NDP members, they were active members of the Liberal party! In case you are wondering, yes, the issue of dual memberships was brought up in that race, and pooh poohed as, you guessed it, sour grapes. Guess where Ujjal Dosanjh is today after his devastating leadership run that almost killed the BC NDP? Elected as a Liberal MP.

But I digress.

The optics of this last minute tidal wave of memberships is dreadful. Boxes filled with new membership application forms arrived at the deadline without money or the canvasser’s submission forms attached. The money to pay for these membership applications showed up later in a lump sum and payment was assigned to each form, with canvassing forms hurriedly filled out and signed well after the deadline. But, rules notwithstanding, the memberships, it seems, will be allowed to stand.

The fact that these memberships are all supporting Adrian Dix makes one even more suspicious, and the fact that the Principal Secretary of the NDP Jan Obrien, who is largely responsible for the decision to accept the memberships, is the wife of Vancouver City Counsellor, and high profile Dix supporter Geoff Meggs makes it look even worse.
Still all of these new members will be assigned a PIN (sound familiar?) and these individuals, who clearly had their memberships paid for by somebody else will, I am willing to wager, have their PIN phoned in for them by those who signed them up even if they are dead, out of the country or a dog.

I have nothing against dogs, I love my dogs and frankly they may make better voting choices than some people I know. However, it is not currently in the rules for dogs to vote for leadership candidates.

Canada sends observers all over the world to make sure that emerging democracies behave properly during the writ period, and especially on voting day. We are the GUARDIANS of the rules of democracy. We take our role very seriously and are usually first to sound the alarm if we detect intimidation or electoral fraud at the hands of some self imposed dictator.

In this great country of Canada we are dismantling the fairest, most honest system of voting there can be. One vote to each eligible individual who shows up at a prescribed place during a prescribed time period, provides picture identification or presents a voter’s card that has been the result of an in person enumeration of eligible voters. We no longer do a voter registration or enumeration in British Columbia and as a result our voter’s lists are hopelessly out of date or wrong.

Still we are further ahead by requiring individuals who represent an independent election authority to hand us a paper ballot, then direct us behind a screen where we make our mark, fold the ballot and put it in the ballot box. Our name is then struck off the list and we have participated in one of the fairest and most essential process in an open and honest democracy. And, all of this is witnessed by independent officers and party scrutineer.

In the ‘old’ system the elections officer can see who you are, the colour of your eyes and whether or not you had garlic for lunch. What’s more it is free.
In the televote and online system you have to pay to vote. Why? Because the system is corporately owned and they charge either you, or the party to whom they are contracted for you to vote, or both. That is one of major reasons why it costs the NDP candidates $15,000 to run. If these companies have their way, every municipal, provincial and federal election will be held using their “paid for” service.

So, not content with privatizing every other public service in this country, now we have both political parties in this province wanting to privatize your right to vote, and worse, to do so in a system that is wide open to abuse and has proven to allow fraud when it has been used previously.
Leadership dogs
Comment by Gary Young on 24th January 2011
Thanks to gordon wilson for the revealing comments on BC Leadership fiascos and the dirt involved. although it is quite sad to see supposedly intelligent and supposedly well meaning candidates and followers using dirt and lie tactics, it isn't really too surprising.
When dogs and goats get to vote, consider most of the candidates are barnyard animals anyway.

Democracy
Comment by Gary Edwards on 23rd January 2011
Wow Gordon

You have just shown me that it is easier to fraudulently elect a leader than it is to democratically recall them.