Elections Canada has quietly warned staff to be on the lookout for increasingly sophisticated tactics aimed at discouraging - or even stopping - voters from casting a ballot.
While Canada's political leaders may disagree on all kinds of things, they surely must agree that what matters most is the ability of Canadians to democratically elect the governments that enact policy on their behalf.
Which means all of our leaders should be dead-set against any attempts at voter suppression. Loudly and proudly so, in fact.
Fortunately for them as leaders of their respective parties, they have a fair bit of influence in shaping the activity of their partisan teams.
With that in mind, here's an easy thing Canada's political leaders can do to prevent vote suppression:
Declare both publicly and via internal communication that any card-carrying member of their party found engaging in vote-suppression activity is banned from engaging with their party for a period of 20 years.
Related and in the interests of solidarity, party leaders could commit to not accepting as members anyone found to be guilty of vote-suppression from other parties for the same duration.
Such a ban would include:
- party membership and all the rights provided
- ability to donate to that party (sending the signal that you can't buy your way around the ban)
To ensure clarity here - after all, there's a difference between an attack ad and vote suppression - party leaders would, as part of their messaging, include a frame and examples of activity that count as vote suppression. If parties can provide sample ballots and GOTV, after all, they can surely provide their teams information on what not to do.
Things that come to mind:
- The provision of information about voting access or eligibility that is contrary to the law by flyer, phone, in person or online (ie date of election, location of polling station, false information about voting restrictions related to police records or employment. etc.)
- Providing intentionally false or misleading information about other parties or candidates (ie: if you tell anyone "they" are busing in voters, using doctors' offices addresses as residences, etc. have proof or you're gone)
If you can think of others, stick them in the comments, or perhaps Elections Canada could provide a comprehensive list.
Elections can be tense, pressure can be high and people can get carried away - we get that. If Canada wants to be Tough On Crime, however, you'd think that the first place to enforce this would be where our democratic process is concerned.
If you think this is a good idea, let the leaders and their parties know.