Much has been said this week about low voter turnout in the #pcldr election, the “old boys club” and shady Election Day tactics. For thousands of honest people who’ve spent hours volunteering for the #pcaa throughout the years these are the types of headlines that make it hard to be a proud Party member. What is worse, however, is the negative impact these political games have on new PCAA volunteers who are attracted to the Party though the leadership process. After an election day like Saturday, September 17, I am not surprised that thousands of Albertans have either stayed away from the #pcldr process or have moved to different parties.
The #pcaa set out rules for the #pcldr election process and on the Tuesday of the advance poll and on Saturday of the regular vote, all but one leadership team respected those rules. In fact, I spent the entire day last Saturday driving around Calgary responding to “situations” where members of a particular team were engaging in improper and unfair tactics. This is not to say that every volunteer from this particular team were corrupt but those that were made it no secret that they were there to attempt to make the day difficult for those volunteering on other teams. The many violations of the rules were downright shameful. This is NOT the kind of Party I want to belong to and not the kind of Alberta I believe in.
As we head into the second vote, I thought it would be beneficial to share a few explanations of the #pcldr election rules, which were provided to Party Presidents and Deputy Returning Officers by Chris Warren, Chief Returning Officer for the PC Leadership Election.
In response to a question about whether MLA’s are allowed to greet constituents within 50 meters of the polling station, Mr. Warren provided the following explanation:
MLAs should not be “greeting” people within 50 m of the entrance to a polling station for exactly the reasons you state below. We have told this to the Caucus liaison and he has sent emails to his colleagues. MLAs may volunteer at a polling station, but they need to be actually working (not campaigning) at the polling stations.
DROs have been told they may bar an MLA from the polling station where they are directly, or indirectly, campaigning.
Frankly, MLAs need to understand that when they are “greeting” people, they are not doing either themselves, nor the candidate they support, any favors. We have had members phone us to tell us they were upset to see their MLAs engaging in this type of behavior and were planning to vote on the second ballot for another candidate, not endorsed by their MLA, solely because of how the MLA conducted themselves at a polling station.
Individual MLAs would serve their own purposes, and those of the candidate they support, better by working to get the vote out. People who arrive at the polls already have their minds made up.
MLAs also need to understand that in many cases the entrances to polling stations are situated within a hotel, seniors lodge or place of business. Clogging entrances or forcing customers or clients, as well as our members, to run a gauntlet does not create any sense of goodwill for an MLA.
This was a major issue last Saturday as several MLAs insisted on standing at the door to greet and talk to constituents. While I can understand why MLAs want to stand and greet constituents, the point is that it’s clearly against the rules and they know it. Doing it anyways shows poor form and a lack of leadership and judgment. It’s disappointing to see MLAs who are supposed to lead the #pcaa express such a disregard for the process. As Mr. Warren said, you are not doing yourselves any favors.
Mr. Warren also sent a reminder that:
Statutory Declarations are to be used in lieu of proper credentials only in exceptional circumstances. An example of this would be an elderly member arriving at the polling station close to closing time without proper identification. If a Returning Officer is reasonably certain that it would be impractical to send the member home to get the ID then a statutory declaration would be appropriate.
This rule was not followed at all in some constituencies and inconsistently followed in others. I was seriously disappointed when I found out that at one point in the morning of the advance poll, there were as many as 40 minority seniors with inadequate credentials standing in line to complete Statutory Declarations. What was worse? Finding out later in the day when the poll wasn’t busy; voters were consistently being turned away for a lack of proper credentials. This inconsistent approach is disappointing to say the least. These types of things happened in constituencies throughout the province on Election Day.
Another common complaint I received was that in some constituencies, scrutineers representing a particular candidate were allowed to check credentials and sell memberships. A scrutineer is supposed to be an observer representing a candidate – and not interacting with voters. There is a reason people were asked to complete and sign scrutineer forms. This is a clear violation of common sense, not to mention a major conflict of interest.
These are only a few examples of ways that election rules were not followed – I received dozens of complaints from voters and volunteers. As a constituency president I’m disappointed that people in this Party believe that the ends justify the means and that winning at all costs is the best way forward. There are many people who volunteered in this election and conducted themselves in a very honest way. Their great work and fabulous contribution has been overshadowed by the dirty tactics and dishonest conduct of the others. In my opinion there was a team that embodied those dirty tactics on Election Day.
All I can hope for is that enough people still care about this Party and believe in Alison Redford’s message of change to make sure the old boys don’t get their way. The power is in your hands – don’t let it slip away …. Every vote counts!
Help to get our Party back by voting for change at the advance poll on September 27th or on voting day on October 1st. For details on how and where to vote, please visit www.alisonredford.ca.