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Voters List

A couple of days before Election Day, I was phone canvassing my party’s supporters. My job was to convince them that their vote was important and give them the address of the polling station. I probably made about 15 calls in an hour. Then I had this call:

Dave: Hello. This is Dave Volek from the ______Party. Could I please talk to Ed Smith?

Elderly Female Voice: Ed’s dead. . . . Yesterday.

I wasn’t expecting that! I mustered up the best empathy I could, but I doubt it consoled much. I made a note on the canvass sheet not to call this number again, but sometimes this information may not make it to the next canvasser. Ed probably got called again.

Ed is dead. Yet his name is still on the list of eligible voters. This was back in the days when ID was not required to get a Canadian ballot. On Election Day, I could have walked into Ed’s polling station, said, “I’m Ed Smith,” and another vote gets cast for my party.

Maintaining an accurate voters’ list is an immense undertaking. Voters die and are still on the list. New voters constantly come of voting age, and they are often not on the list. Voters constantly move into the electoral unit just before election day, and they are not on the list. Voters move out and are still on the list. And voters move within the electoral unit, having addresses that don’t match anymore. With so many people making such life changes, there is no way we should expect 100% accuracy. In my opinion, we should be happy with 90%.

But when a voter’s list is 10% inaccurate, this creates suspicion that the election process might be tainted. Was there somebody deliberately leaving names off? Or putting names on?

And yes, some zealous party workers will give their party a little illegal edge if the opportunity arises.

So, it’s important for electoral commissions to be vigilant and appear vigilant. Modern democracies have all sorts of mechanisms to ensure the voters’ list is at least 90% accurate and opportunities for cheating are few. But the few instances of administrative errors or cheating can lead to discrediting the electoral result—even if these few instances really didn’t change the final result.

My experience is that Canada’s electoral referees will seldom overturn an election result based on reliable evidence that something went wrong. Instead, the electoral commissions will analyze the situation. If it is a big enough problem that discredits the election result, they will devise ways such that the same wrong things are less likely to happen again in the next election. When we go to the polling station to cast a vote, be rest assured that the processes to cast and count that vote have been refined through with many elections.

The Canadian political parties have a similar approach for their internal elections. However, there is less unbiased scrutiny in these elections. So sometimes shenanigans can tilt the final result from what an honest and fair election would produce. Even if the evidence is substantial, the party feels it is better to go with the initial result than to get into a long dogfight between the factions within the party over who violated which voting rules.

So how will the voters’ list be a factor in the elections for Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG)?

In the TDG, the electoral units for the first tier will have about 200 neighbors together each. It will be much easier for an administrator, who probably lives in the neighborhood, to keep track of the voters’ list.

When someone moves into a new neighborhood, he or she should register with the local administrator. After residency is verified, the member can vote in the next neighborhood election.

If the member forgets to register and tries to vote on TDG Election Day, I would hope that the local TDG rules would not allow that member to vote (each TDG is going to have its own rules). But the member will be able to get the registration started, be on the mailing list, and be eligible to vote in the next election, which is only a year from now. This member should not be too annoyed at this little delay.

The TDG voters’ list for the neighborhood tier will still not be perfect. But any administrative errors or delays will not affect the final outcome of the TDG neighborhood elections: Each neighborhood will still be electing one of their more capable residents into the first tier of governance.

And there is little chance of partisan influence on the voters’ list because there will be no political parties in the TDG.

In the higher tiers, the number of eligible voters will be much less than 200. It will be easy to keep these lists accurate—and the elections fair and honest.

While the TDG administrators should prepare the voters’ list as best they can, errors are still possible. But the quality of the voters’ list is much less of an issue in the TDG than it is for western democracy.

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