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Election objection

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Why is the province's democracy watchdog the least accountable agency in Manitoba? I know I sound like Liberal MLA Kevin Lamoureux, but the guy has a point. It's a little Zimbabwe-esque over there at Elections Manitoba. I'm not even talking about high-level accountability stuff. I'm just talking about a decent website and staff that returns phone calls.Here's my beef: Elections Manitoba did a poll following last year's election to gauge how their voting plans went. They do a poll like that after every election, I'm told. I've been asking for that poll for more than a year. In a faux-cheerful and slightly embarrassed way, I call about once a month asking when I can see the poll. I get the brush off, or my calls and e-mails go totally ignored. Par for the course at Elections Manitoba. Typically, half our calls on any given subject get returned. Except during the election when they had a temporary guy (Wayne?) who was pretty good to deal with.Premier Gary Doer says all polls paid for by taxpayers ought to be public, and Manitoba's Ombudsman made that policy official a few years ago after she ordered the city to release an OlyWest poll. The "polls are public" provision is even in the province's new access to information legislation that's slated to be passed this fall.But, foiled again. Elections Manitoba isn't covered by the FOI law.Another beef: The Elections Manitoba website sucks. I've said it before, but every time I surf over there for a simple figure, I yell it again to whomever is in my office. I can't ever find what I want and end up walking across the office to our bulletin board to peer at the yellowing Freep results page we print on election night. I know how crazy election night is in our newsroom, and I'd much rather get the definitive data from the pros who count the ballots. But their website is hard to navigate. Basic information (like, what percentage of the total vote did the NDP get?) is buried so deep you might as well get out your calculator and do the math yourself. There is virtually no historical information. Ottawa is so, so much better, thanks to a nice one-two combo of the Elections Canada site and the Parliament of Canada site, which has the voting history of every riding in every permutation. In Manitoba, we've got Wikipedia.In a province that doesn't exactly have a stellar election rep - vote rigging, pitiful turnout in remote areas, our own mini in-and-out scandal - you'd think Elections Manitoba could at least return a call or two.

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About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first as a general assignment reporter and then covering city hall and the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter.

Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school, has won several Western Ontario Newspaper Awards and has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

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