Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Prisoners big on voting

More than 17,000 cast ballots on May 2

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OTTAWA -- Despite attempts to get more young people involved in the last federal election, the fastest-growing vote came from behind bars.

More than 17,000 incarcerated inmates cast ballots for the May 2 election, a 27 per increase from the 2008 election.

The figure marks the largest number of votes recorded by prisoners since the Supreme Court upheld the right of federal inmates to vote in 2002.

The figures were published in chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand's report on the 41st election, released last week.

Mayrand does not explain why more prisoners are exercising this right, but notes a new elector registration tool helped liaison officers in prisons identify inmates' ridings and complete the registration.

There is no indication the Conservative government's plans to introduce tougher crime legislation and build more prisons increased the turnout.

About nine per cent of the ballots cast in prison were rejected by Elections Canada, a rate three times the national average.

High rates of rejected ballots can indicate a protest by voters who intentionally deface their ballots. Ridings in Quebec typically have the greatest share of rejected ballots.

Elections Canada does not publish figures to show how prisoners voted. Instead, their votes are lumped in with other special ballots cast by Canadians living abroad and Canadian Forces members stationed away from their home ridings.

An Ottawa Citizen analysis of these special ballots shows that, had these alone been counted on election day, Stephen Harper's Conservatives would have enjoyed an even stronger majority.

The prisoners, military members and Canadians abroad voted strongly in support of the Conservatives but also threw more support behind the decimated Liberal party than other electors.

Ridings in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario accounted for a disproportionate share of these special ballots. More were cast in Kingston, Ont., and the Islands than in any other riding, likely owing to the large prison population.

 

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2011 A4

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