Blog | November 25, 2011

The following piece covers a legal challenge which Public Interest Alberta's Democracy Task Force and our members have been supporting and following from the beginning. Click here for more information.The Edmonton Journal article, "Province’s lawyer asks judge not to issue directions for elections: Could tie the hands of electoral officers":

By Sheila Pratt,

EDMONTON—Building a voters list through a door-to-door enumeration may not play a key role in future elections, lawyers for the chief electoral office suggested Thursday in Court of Queen’s Bench.Bill Shores told court that 300,000 people were missing from the new voters list after an enumeration in late summer. It was the first enumeration since 2004.“We don’t know how the list will evolve,” Shores said. “Albertans don’t come to the door” as they used to and there is great deal of concern about giving out personal information. As a result, the electoral office relies on information shared from motor vehicle registration, as one source, to verify addresses.For that reason, Shores urged Justice Mel Binder to avoid giving directions about how to better run elections, as requested in a court case brought by Liberal MLA Kevin Taft. Such directions could tie the hands of future electoral officers, Shores suggested.Taft is arguing that the inaccurate voters list was one of many problems in the 2008 election as well as long waiting times and voters sent to the wrong polling stations. All these problems added up to poorly run election that infringed voters’ rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.Grant Dunlop, Taft’s lawyer, argued that the judge must provide directions if he finds voters’ charter rights were infringed by the actions of government in the poorly run election.Government lawyer Robert Normey argued that all the problems will be resolved by the province’s plans for fixed elections. Bill 21 was introduced Monday, making it unnecessary for a judge to provide direction on how to better run an elections, he said.The bill calls for elections every four years in the spring and allows the chief electoral officer, as opposed to the cabinet, to choose the returning officers in order to avoid the perception of political bias.“So there is no reason going into the next election for the court to give direction,” Normey said.Taft’s case hinges on his allegations that the government’s delay in appointing returning officers caused many of these problems.But Shores argued the chief electoral officer did his best to deal with the problems given the delay.Justice Mel Binder asked :“I accept that the CEO did everything in his power and ability to make the thing work, but that does not answer the question of whether the actions of the government were unreasonable with respect to Section 3 (of the charter).”“We have evidence the government did not act reasonably. It took the minister of justice a year to reply (to the chief electoral officer’s request for appointments) and that can’t be reasonable.”

By Sheila Pratt, [email protected]

This article was published in the Edmonton Journal on November 25, 2011. Read the full article on the Edmonton Journal website.