Reduce abuse, maximize participation

Reduce abuse, maximize participation I wish to weigh in on concerns about voting procedures in the recent territorial election that have been vigorously debated on ArtsNet and reported on in both the Whitehorse Star and the Yukon News. The issues that

I wish to weigh in on concerns about voting procedures in the recent territorial election that have been vigorously debated on ArtsNet and reported on in both the Whitehorse Star and the Yukon News.

The issues that have come to my attention are as follows:

1) Despite the efforts of Elections Yukon to inform eligible voters that they had to be on the voters list in order to vote on Election Day, a number of people apparently did not know about this requirement.

Among those who did not know were many first-time voters and others who do not necessarily get their information by reading newspapers and listening to the radio. (And even among those who knew they had to be on the voters list were at least four people, that I know of, who have resided in the same homes for years, have been on previous lists and assumed they would be on this one, too. They did not realize that they had to be re-enumerated every election.)

2) People who were not on the voters list had to meet stringent criteria to be sworn in to vote on Election Day.

It was not enough to be able to prove your identity and residency with photo identification and other documents; you had to find someone to vouch for you who lived in your poll Ð yes, your poll, not your riding or even your community.

For example, the neighbour across the street would not have been able to vouch for you if your street happened to form the boundary between two polls. The person vouching for you also had to be on the voters list, so if your entire household missed being enumerated, your roommates would not have been able to vouch for you because their names would not have been on the list either.

It is no wonder that some, perhaps many, people ended up not voting at all, whether because they could not meet Elections Yukon’s swearing-in criteria or because they gave up in frustration.

I know of one young woman who spent the entire day looking for someone to vouch for her.

Others allegedly found people to vouch for them who did not really know them Ð in other words, they found people who were willing to lie so that they could vote. (It has also been alleged that this practice may have been encouraged or at least ignored by poll workers.)

3) Names of people who were not eligible voters may have been on the voters list. For example, they may not have truly resided at the stated address or they may not have lived in the Yukon for the required 12 months prior to Election Day.

4) At least one person arrived at the poll to discover that his name had already been crossed off the voters list, whether in error or because someone lied about his identity. In any event, the person whose name had already been crossed off was allowed to vote.

What has become clear over the past two weeks is that the procedures used in the recent election were flawed.

A number of people who met age, citizenship, and residency requirements were not able to vote. People who were not eligible to vote may have voted. And in at least one case, two votes may have been cast when only one should have been.

In a jurisdiction where ridings can be won or lost by only a few votes (just ask Lois Moorcroft and Valerie Boxall), these are serious matters and could even call into question some of the election results.

I do not know what, if anything, can be done after the fact. But surely in the four or five years between now and the next territorial election our new legislators can devise a system which reduces the potential for abuse and ensures that everyone who meets basic voting criteria is allowed to vote with a maximum of confidence in that system and a minimum of personal hassle.

(And, by the way, why do there need to be different voting procedures for municipal, territorial, and federal elections? I realize that each level of government has its own legislation governing elections, but it is this very lack of consistency that causes some of the confusion.)

Finally, I wish to applaud those young people who first brought these issues to light by speaking out publicly, creating a video for YouTube, and establishing an online petition.

They have proven that young people care about the political process and take their democratic rights seriously.

If change comes about between now and the next election, we will have them to thank for it.

Karen Walker


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