Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Voting hoax raises serious issues

Radio personalities went to polls twice during 2011 election

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MONTREAL -- Two Montrealers have been admonished by Elections Canada for taking part in a voting hoax that was documented on a popular French-language comedy show.

Laura-Emmanuelle Gagne and Simon Poulin each received an extra voter information card prior to the May 2, 2011 federal election -- one for their own electoral district and, erroneously, another card for a neighbouring district.

On voting day, Gagne and Poulin decided to cast a ballot at two different polling stations to prove a point, with both opting to spoil their second ballot.

Infoman, a program on CBC's French-language network that is sometimes likened to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, was in on the prank. The whole process was recorded with hidden cameras.

"When it's the government that invites us, why not do it?" Jean-Rene Dufort, better known as Infoman, a satirical superhero, asks in the episode.

Dufort called the error a "two-for-one special by Elections Canada, who distributed two voting cards to several Montrealers."

It's unclear how often in the last federal election voters received an extra card in the mail, or were able to cast a second ballot. Elections Canada did not immediately return a request for comment Saturday.

On Infoman, Poulin said he believed several of his neighbours also received two voting cards.

While the show is a comedy, Dufort ends the segment by raising a serious issue: "The question is still worth asking in 2011: how many people voted twice?"

An unidentified official at the polling station is captured on hidden camera acknowledging the problem.

"It's not the first time, it's an error that we've seen repeated throughout the day," the man said.

A report commissioned by Elections Canada into the 2011 election found "serious" issues with the procedures carried out by polling officials.

In particular, the report found issues with those whose names were not on the list of registered voters or who failed to bring the required identification with them to their polling stations.

Elections Canada is moving to address those issues, but doesn't anticipate being able to make all the changes by the next general election in 2015.

Although their faces were blurred out on Infoman, Gagne and Poulin were discovered after an investigation by Elections Canada.

Both have accepted responsibility for their actions, according to a notice posted Friday on the government's Canada Gazette.

Gagne and Poulin believed spoiling the second ballot meant they were not committing an offence.

But now, they realize "the integrity of the voting process is based on honesty and on the trust of all Canadians in a system that respects the fundamental principle of one elector, one vote," the notice said.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 10, 2013 A6

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