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Elections Law: Comment on Revelations of Possible Voter Suppression on October 19



In the above, linked article, Elections Canada is warning of voter suppression tactics being used against Canadians on the upcoming federal election day, October 19.  This brings back lessons learned in Florida, from 2004-2012, while I served as co-lead regional elections  counsel for the Presidential nominees, as well as other Democratic Party candidates.

In Florida, especially during the Presidential election periods, we had a few thousand lawyers working on behalf of the Democratic candidates to ensure that no one was deterred from voting, regardless of their possible political affiliation. There was a reasonable concern that such would occur, especially based upon voter suppression tactics being implemented through GOP-controlled legislatures, as well as past efforts on or before Election Day. Sadly, I am now witnessing such methods being deployed in Canada. C-23, passed by the current Federal Government, despite a public outcry, yet another example of methods that have become all-too-common in the U.S. following Bush v. Gore and the 2000 Presidential Election. Again, this is another reason why election protection legal teams are an absolute necessity. In Central Florida, Richard Siwica and I saw great, long-term success in assembling, training, and deploying these — to great degree — volunteer legal teams to stem voter suppression efforts.  (Continued below illustration ….)


So, what have we learned about efforts to suppress voter turnout in the United States.   It is unilaterally used by one particular political party to suppress core voter constituencies of the other major political party.  It is also multi-faceted; it is not limited to one single approach — rather, there are layers of methods utilized to suppress voter turnout on Election Day, to deter voters from being able to cast ballots, and there are serious questions regarding the security of voting technology to accurately count ballots.

Again, addressing C-23, it was passed under the auspices of attempting to stem vote fraud. Unfortunately, as both Canadian and U.S.-based elections experts recognize, that is a virtual, non-existent threat.  In the meantime, such legislation undermines the ability of visible minorities, seniors, students and those with physical handicaps from being able to cast their votes.  Here is an illustration created by the venerable Brennan Center, reflecting U.S.-based misrepresentations on the effect of voter fraud versus the reality:


So, the message I started with stands:  in the absence of effective public representation designed to prevent such tactics from being deployed, non-governmental organizations and legal advocacy groups need to be vigilant in standing together as a deterrent to such pernicious methods of suppressing the vote.

Now, such coordinated effort to fight back did not arise immediately in the United States.  The lessons of Election 2000 were only internalized by the Democratic Party — in part — starting in 2004.  Some of those lessons are still being learned, although dedicated non-governmental organizations are doing their best to continue organized resistance to voter suppression efforts, especially with coordinated voter registration drives.  Hopefully, in Canada, political parties will not abdicate their responsibility for organizing and publicizing such organizational efforts to stem the tide of voter suppression.  After all, October 19, is just around the corner ….


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