Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wannabe Lawyerism

Many years ago, I was an "inside" scrutineer at a polling place during a federal election. The job of a scrutineer is to watch the process and to ensure that all things are done according to the rules.

In addition, most parties have their scrutineers track who has voted, and that information is passed back to a zone house as part of the party's GOTV (Get Out The Vote) operation. Essentially, the canvassing parties do during the election is not to persuade people to support the party, but to identify which voters are supporting the party. By tracking who has voted, the parties can then identify supporters who have not yet voted and take action to ensure that they do.

Different jurisdictions have different rules about who can act as a scrutineer on behalf of a candidate. At the time, Saskatchewan's election law required a scrutineer to be an eligible voter in the constituency. The federal legislation, however, had no such restriction.

Part way through the afternoon, a newly arrived Conservative scrutineer started complaining that one of the Liberal scrutineers was ineligible since she was too young to vote. Thus began a two hour tempest as the Conservative scrutineer loudly demanded that "the law" be enforced - even though the law existed only in his delusions. After much shouting and raving, the Conservative scrutineer was told to behave himself or he would be ejected from the polling place. As he wound up for another go, the Conservative scrutineer at my poll, having had enough, went over and told the man to "sit the &%@& down and shut the &%@& up."

During a federal byelection some years later, I was acting as an "outside" scrutineer - meaning that I also had to be sworn in as a scrutineer, but my job was simply to collect the updated lists from the inside scrutineer. Then I'd go back to our zone house, update our sheets and determine who we needed to be calling.

As I went into the poll - carefully removing my Lynn McDonald campaign button - I noticed a woman sporting a Peter Worthington campaign button. I asked the Elections Canada staff to have her remove it. While there was no federal law against underaged scrutineers, there was - and is - a federal law about campaign materials in a polling place. Again, much raving and carrying on, based on her own interpretation of non-existent laws.

Apparently this is quite a pattern with right wingers. Make up imaginary legal precedents and fanciful though non-existent constitutional conventions to justify whatever outrageous behaviour you like. So far in this campaign, we've seen at least two examples.

First, there are the Prime Minister's speaking points about how only the party with the largest number of seats is allowed to form a government. It isn't true, of course. And the Prime Minister knows it isn't true. There is a technical term in moral theology to cover this kind of thing. We call it lying. I am curious how Harper explains the fact that, from October 1925 to June 1926, William Lyon Mackenzie King was Prime Minister, even though his Liberals had fewer seats than Arthur Meighen's Conservatives.

And now, to round it all out, we have the Communications Director of Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke, one Michael Sona, apparently attempting to steal ballot boxes because a special poll properly established under the Canada Elections Act was "illegal." It was illegal, you see, because Michael Sona imagined it was illegal, and therefore he was entitled to try and seize the ballot boxes.

Several University of Guelph students claim Michael Sona, the communications director for Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke, attempted to put a stop to voting at the special ballot held Wednesday.

The students say Sona approached the Elections Canada balloting site claiming that the process unfolding at the location was illegal and at one point reached for but never took possession of a container with ballots.

“He tried to grab for the ballot box. I’m not sure he got his hand on the box, but he definitely grabbed for it,” said Brenna Anstett, a student, who at the time of the reported incident was sealing her second of two envelopes containing her vote.

Student Claire Whalen was just about to receive her ballot just before 5 p.m. when the episode unfolded. “That’s when a guy came up and said it was an illegal polling station and that he was confiscating the ballots. And then he tried to take (the ballot box),” Whalen said.

I should mention the other consistent pattern among Canadian right wingers. Whenever they get close to being successful, they can always be counted on to screw it up with an idiot eruption like this.

Arthur Meighen is surely rolling over in his grave.


UPDATE: The Conservatives tried to appeal the matter to Elections Canada with their claim that the special poll was illegal. Elections Canada appears to have told them to pound sand. The Conservatives have thanked Elections Canada for dismissing their "concerns."

While the Elections Canada statement confirms that what happened in Guelph lacked proper authorization, we applaud the decision not to disenfranchise University of Guelph students because of errors by the local returning officer.

In the CBC story, it is noted that the Liberals tried a similar tactic at the University of Toronto during the 2008 election.


MaxEd said...

Only once did the CBC mention the similar shenanigan attempted by the Martin Liberals, then the bias cut in and the item was edited out.

BobMacActual said...

Plagiarism alert!
"There is a technical term in moral theology to cover this kind of thing. We call it lying."
No, not you. Me. I am so gonna plagiarize this line, you would not believe it! It's perfect!