Alberta Politics

alberta faces incomplete voters list. british columbia’s elections officer proposes meaningful changes.

A photo of me at my voting station in the 2008 Alberta provincial election.
This blogger never misses a vote.

Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft is continuing his court battle over the administration of Alberta’s 2008 provincial election by launching a charter challenge.

As reported by the Edmonton Journal‘s Sheila Pratt, Dr. Taft’s lawyer Grant Dunlop has argued the government has a legal obligation to “create effective machinery” to make it as easy as possible for people to vote, including accurate voters lists. In the lead up to the 2008 election, the government delayed appointing returning officers which also delayed the enumeration process, leaving the official voters list inaccurate and incomplete.

An estimated 250,000 Albertans needed to be sworn-in at their polling stations due to incomplete lists, which led to large line-ups and many people not voting. The 2008 election saw the lowest voter turnout in Alberta’s history (at an estimated 39%).

Last week, Elections Alberta admitted that there remains at least 300,000 people missing from the official voters lists.

Looking west, Albertans might take some inspiration for electoral changes that could improve the ability of our official electoral structure to engage with voters. British Columbia’s recently appointed Chief Electoral Officer Keith Archer, a former Albertan and retired University of Calgary academic, submitted a list of four recommendations (pdf) that could help modernize the election system and make voting more accessible in that province:

1) Voter-centric election model: Modernizing language in the Elections Act that restricts duties to specific elections officials, allowing for better flexibility when helping voters participate in the elections process.

2) Efficient and effective voter registration: Legislators consider providing greater flexibility to the Chief Electoral Officer to determine the best process for conducting enumerations to ensure the most efficient and cost-effective methodologies are used to ensure a high quality voters list.

3) Encouraging youth participation: Improving the accessibility of registration opportunities for youth by engaging these future voters before they reach voting age. Permitting early registration at age 16 would allow Elections BC to work with schools and the driver licensing program to ensure maximum exposure to the registration process for young voters. Voting age will remain at age 18.

4) Trialling new voting technologies: Providing greater flexibility to the Chief Electoral Officer to introduce, on a pilot basis, new voting technologies. An August 2011 discussion paper on Internet voting showed that there is a growing interest amongst voters in the possibility of implementing online voting or other new technologies.

9 replies on “alberta faces incomplete voters list. british columbia’s elections officer proposes meaningful changes.”

All of the ideas from BC are good, but the main reason Alberta’s list falls so short is much simpler.

At a Legislative committee meeting last week, Brian Fjeldheim (the Chief Electoral Officer) admitted that the main reason so many voters were left off the lists is the fact enumerators were denied access into many apartment buildings and condo complexes.

After being questioned, Fjeldheim acknowledged that the Elections Act gives him the power to levy fines against building owners for denying access to enumerators – something he declined to do.

If Fjeldheim even sent out warning letters to the apartment owners in non-compliance, the number of voters off the list would be much, much lower.

It’s worth remembering that Fjeldheim was selected by PC MLAs against the wishes of the opposition. So far, he seems to be doing his best to encourage vote suppression.

For the record, the Alberta Chief Electoral Officer’s recommendations for change after the 2008 election cover 74 pages. They can be seen here and here.

The Alberta CEO also recommended more flexibility in staffing polling stations (first link, recommendation #8). The Alberta CEO also made 6 recommendations to improve the data on the electors list (first link, recommendations #10-15). Recommendation #12 in the second link is essentially the same as the fourth recommendation the BC CEO made.

The BC Report, by comparison to these reports from the Alberta CEO, is… sparse. That may be because BC’s electoral system is not quite as backward and incomprehensible as ours. But in any case, I wouldn’t want anyone to read your article and think that the condition of our electoral system was a result of passive Chief Electoral Officers. Alberta’s election officials have been pointing out the problems for years. Elections, actually.

Thanks Jason. It should also be noted that the recommendations were made by the previous chief elections officer, whos contract was not renewed following the 2008 election. I believe that the current CEO, who is also the predecessor of the departed CEO, has not given any indication that he wishes to advocate for the 184 changes advocated in his predecessor’s report.

So why would they want to fix an electoral system that maximizes tory power?? Why would they want a public judicial inquiry? Why do they keep gerry mandering the ridings to pack the tory vote and crack the other partie’s votes? Why are all so-called independent bodies all stocked with tory loyalists enabling tory coercion, and political interference? Why are tories not adhering to 184 recommendations of the Previous CEO, who was let go? Why are FOIPs going unfulfilled? Why do tories evade every question in the legislature? Why do they mob and bully whistle blowers? Why do we have the lowest royalties on the planet, the second largest energy reserve, highest per capita spending on health with worst accesibility? and on top of that they still want to privatize? Why so much secrecy and effort to evade the truth? Why are foster kids staying in homeless shelters? Why are we not getting energy rebates like alaskans do? Why do we havea deficit with oil at $100 per barrel, where is all the money going??? The elections issue is just the tip of the iceberg. Dave, C, its time for all peoples and political observers like yourself help bring some electoral rebalancing and back the opposition before next election. Political neutrality only enables the status quo.

Wow. I sure miss Lorne Gibson. He did such a great job. Dave, if you remember, after the 2008 election, your pal Kevin blamed Gibson, not the Tories, and he was right. I don’t know if you were old enough to vote in the past, but we never had these problems before Gibson’s appointment. the man was more interested in scoring political points than in doing his job. And Lou, the Tories appointed Gibson, too.

Jason raises a good point. Communications people work every day to take big chunks of information and copy and make them into digestible bites that the media and public will take an interest in. 184 recommended changes is the same as no recommended changes in the sense that the public won’t read them, and the legislature won’t likely implement them. Four points though, is manageable.

In communications, often less is more. So by boiling down the essence of the systemic changes required to four points, BC Elections has increased the probability that its issues will make in onto the political, media and public agendas.

No one should ever make 184 recommendations for anything. It’s simply not the right way to convey information to an audience.

The Alberta PC Party has a vested interest in poor voter turnout, as it increases the likelihood, especially in rural and “rurban” constituencies (i.e. those outside the two big cities), that they will hold their seats.

As for the laws respecting election officials’ and candidates’ access to multi-unit residential buildings, a law that is not enforced might as well not exist at all. Landlords, property management firms, condo associations, and the like need to be slapped hard to send a message that the right of citizens to participate fully in our electoral process must trump so-called “security”.

As for this fall’s alleged enumeration, I saw a sign in my neighbourhood that Elections Alberta posted at the entrance to the subdivision announcing that enumerators would be visiting; this sign was there for a month. However, not a single knock came on the door. Of course, my wife & I both work full-time, and we work “normal business hours”, so we were not home much during the day on weekdays; but were the enumerators not also going about the neighbourhoods in the evenings and on weekends? If they were not, it is no wonder there are so many people “missing” off the lists.

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