You Can’t Trust Pencils? – Chris Land

How fucking stupid are people?

I’ve seen some idiotic conspiracy theory’s in my time but this one really takes the cake.

There are people out there who are raising concerns because Canada’s recent federal election featured people voting with pencils. They are complaining that returning officers are rubbing the ballots to smear the X marked on it so that it will spoil the ballot and then not be counted.

In the report from the CBC, an anonymous Reddit user claims that their ballot was opened by a poll worker, the X was smudged, and their mark disappeared and would be discarded as a spoiled ballot.

The first problem with this accusation is that the author is unknown and the post has since been removed. The second problem is that if a poll worker opens your ballot to see how you have voted, THAT IS ILLEGAL!!!! The returning officer at the table will take your ballot and rub it, but that is to make sure that you are only putting one ballot into the ballot box. They are guarding against someone counterfeiting ballots and voting more than once.

To add to the idiocy, Shauna McAllister of Nanaimo, B.C. created a video to warn people about voting with a pencil by citing such iron-clad sources as “Facebook Friends” and “A Voter”.

The idea that votes have been tampered with because we vote by pencil is utterly absurd. All you need to have a high degree of confidence in our voting system is to volunteer as a scrutineer at a polling station during an election.

Under the Canada Elections Act,

Part 12, 283 (1), Immediately after the close of a polling station, an election officer who is assigned to the polling station shall count the votes in the presence of

(a) another election officer who is assigned to the polling station; and

(b) any candidates or their representatives who are present or, if no candidates or representatives are present, at least two electors.

Any candidate in any election can have a representative sitting at the table to make sure that the ballots are counted correctly.

One time when I acted as a scrutineer for an election, we examined a ballot where an X was marked in the bubble next to one name and was erased and then there was an X next to another name. The person who cast this ballot must have brought an eraser with them because none were supplied in the voting booth. This ballot was discarded as “spoiled” because more than one name was marked. If you are voting and you mark an X next to the wrong name, you can go back to the Returning Officer and request a second ballot. The one you have brought back is set aside as a spoiled ballot and won’t be counted.

The test for Electoral Officers is clear voter intent. You can have your ballot spoiled if you fail to use the white bubble on the otherwise grey ballot. Identifying yourself on the ballot can get it nullified as well. But even if you have taken your thumb and smudged the X in the white bubble, it will still be counted. Your thumb won’t be able to erase the X you have made with a pencil.

And let’s reiterate, the Returning Officer is NOT ALLOWED to open your ballot and see how you have voted. I have a moral certainty that “anonymous Reddit poster” in Toronto is lying. The remark that no one working at the polling station can speak English is also a lie. Moreover, it’s a racist lie. Elections officers must be “qualified as an elector”, which means that they must be a Canadian citizen, which means that they have to have achieved competence in either English or French. I do not doubt that many of the election officers at that polling station in Toronto were people of colour and many spoke with an accent. So what, you fucking racist asshole?

I’m not concerned about the incoherent rantings of a handful of idiots. I am deeply concerned that conservatives, upset with the outcome of the election, have embarked on ridiculously baseless attacks on the integrity of our voting system.

Because there are ways to undermine our voting system.

Imagine an urban riding made up of a Klingon neighbourhood, a Romulan neighbourhood, and a Vulcan neighbourhood. Most Klingon’s vote for the Purple Party, while most Vulcan’s vote for the Teal Party with Romulans split between the two. If Vulcan activists were to send hooligans into the Klingon neighbourhood to disrupt voting places and intimidate Klingon’s from voting, that could have an impact on the election. Under Canadian election law, it would also be illegal.

So, unfair and illegal means do exist to unduly impact the outcome of elections. But marking a ballot with a pencil isn’t one of them.

Elections Canada states that they use pencils because they are practical. Even if you use an eraser, it will show that you have used an eraser to alter the ballot. Despite the allegations, YOU CANNOT ERASE YOUR X WITH YOUR THUMB.

I first came across this idiotic conspiracy from a friend’s Facebook post. I’m not going to publicly shame this person, because this was a guy I served with in the Army. This was not someone who I am “FB Friends” with because of shared interest in orchids. This is a person who I know, who I have often spoken to face to face. This was someone who I always thought of as a solid guy. I had to comment on his post that he was looking like an idiot by falling for such a ridiculous controversy.

You would think that Conservatives would spend most of their time complaining that they lost the election despite winning the popular vote. This complaint is at least a legitimate one. It points out the problems with how we vote. Not that Conservatives will attack first-past-the-post, because that is how they manage to win elections on at least some of the time.

If you want to read my thoughts on the subject, see my article on Electoral Reform.

I am concerned that when Conservatives lose, they resort to attacking the integrity of how votes are counted. Elections Canada is a team of dedicated and patriotic Canadians who work hard to ensure that votes are counted as accurately and fairly as humanly possible. The voting method used in Canada is a political question, not one for Elections Canada.

Why are conservatives creating idiotic conspiracies about voting? Are they trying to undermine the very existence of democracy in Canada? Are they trying to destroy the very idea of representative democracy to pave the way for a right-wing dictator?

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) under its leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has damaged democratic institutions in Turkey. Canadians would be foolish to believe that it couldn’t possibly happen here.

I think that, The Great Election 2019 Voting Pencil Scandal, is about undermining real concerns over voting in Canada. We didn’t appear to have any voter intimidation in this election, but there have been concerns in the past. The accusations of “Toronto Voter” have not been verified and are likely to be a complete fabrication, but if we did have a returning officer going rogue, that would have to be addressed. Voter ID laws have been abused in the United States to depress voter turnout among targeted ethnic groups.

Governments or bureaucrats can threaten access to voting. But offering pencils as the tool for marking your ballot isn’t one of them. I might point out that Russian trolls can’t hack a pencil and a piece of paper.

Our voting system is actually far more secure than almost every jurisdiction south of the border. Just because a controversy feeds into your political bias doesn’t mean that you should feed the beast by reposting it. Your idiocy is threatening us all.

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