It’s up to voters to defend democracy

During the 2002 election, we heard rumours about dirty, Louisiana-style politics in Watson Lake. This year, they were confirmed.

During the 2002 election, we heard rumours about dirty, Louisiana-style politics in Watson Lake.

This year, they were confirmed.

On Sunday, Yukon Party campaign organizer Archie Tannoch was caught escorting a couple of seemingly impaired fellows into the town’s advance poll

An official complaint was made to Jo-Ann Waugh, assistant chief electoral officer.

She ordered the returning officer to keep Tannoch out of the polling station.

And the Fentie campaign was ordered to stop escorting people into the polling place.

“We’re satisfied with that,” said Waugh.

Unfortunately, this is common practice in Watson Lake. The uncommon part is a local resident having the courage to come forward with an official complaint.

It is, after all, a small town.

It must be noted that on the official election day, bars are ordered closed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

That’s not the case on advance poll days.

And Tannoch has a reputation for scooping up potential voters in his truck and escorting them to Watson Lake’s advance polls.

But this time, Tannoch got caught.

According to Linda McDonald, a Kaska woman who saw the event go down, Tannoch drove up with two seemingly drunk guys in his truck and walked them inside the advance-polling place.

Tannoch identified both men to the clerks, said McDonald.

That’s another breach of the rules. Voters are supposed to do it themselves as proof of their competency to vote.

See, there’s no breathalyzer in the place, and voters don’t have to walk a straight line, or anything.

In fact, it’s not against the law to vote while drunk for precisely that reason: How do you determine someone is sober and of right mind?

You can see the slippery slope.

One returning officer might deem a voter drunk, another might not — you can imagine the problems once you start preventing people from casting their ballot.

So everyone can vote.

Voters just have to get themselves into the poll and give their name and address.

Then they must walk to the booth, unfold the ballot, mark it, fold it again and walk back to the ballot box.

Do that, and everything’s kosher.

The problem comes when someone escorts a voter, or several, into the polling place.

And it’s a bigger deal when the escort gives the scrutineers their names. And then watches them vote.

Only voters and select officials are allowed in the polling place.

The definition of “official” is pretty narrow — two scrutineers per candidate, a deputy returning officer and a poll clerk. The assistant returning officer and returning officer might show up a couple of times during the day, and that’s it.

Even Waugh isn’t allowed inside a polling station on voting day.

Having a party official escorting voters into the place is verboten.

But that’s what the Yukon Party was doing.

Tannoch insists he did nothing wrong.

He confirmed the two guys were drunk.

According to him, these two drunk guys knew when the advance poll was, and just wanted to vote.

They asked for a ride into town to visit the advance poll.

 “I didn’t do that on behalf of (Fentie),” said the longtime Yukon Party footsoldier.

Waugh put a stop to it once she received the complaint, in writing, from McDonald.

But it could have been happening all day.

What is disturbing is the polling officials didn’t tell Tannoch to take off. They accepted Tannoch giving them the voters’ names.

Though it clearly violated the election rules, it wasn’t something unusual enough to bring to the returning officer’s attention.

In fact, the returning officer didn’t act until there was a complaint.

There’s a lot going on, suggested Waugh.

The deputy returning officer might not have noticed Tannoch — they might not have been paying attention, said Waugh.

As we said, we’ve heard about this type of thing happening before. In 2002.

But previous complaints could not be confirmed — they were from people who were unwilling to be identified.

And that pushed it to the realm of rumour.

It’s up to the public to monitor the voting place, said Waugh.

They have to stand up and protect it. If they’re not willing to come forward, there’s little election officials can do.

In this rare case, someone complained.

And Waugh acted. Tannoch was sent packing.

And the advance poll numbers are in.

In Watson Lake, they dropped to 191 from 271 in 2002.

You have to wonder if this tiny victory over Louisiana-style politics played a part. (RM)