Recall house, delay election: national watchdog

Group wants fixed-date vote pushed back to November


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OTTAWA -- If politicians in Manitoba care about voter turnout, they'll go back to the legislature this week and postpone this fall's vote by a month, a national democracy watchdog said Wednesday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/09/2011 (4226 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — If politicians in Manitoba care about voter turnout, they’ll go back to the legislature this week and postpone this fall’s vote by a month, a national democracy watchdog said Wednesday.

Democracy Watch, a national organization formed to promote democratic principles and fairness, wants the four provinces with fixed election dates scheduled for the first two weeks of October this year, to recall their legislatures and push the dates back to November.

Prince Edward Island (election set for Oct. 3), Ontario (Oct. 6) and Newfoundland (Oct. 11) are on the hot seat with Manitoba and its Oct. 4 election date.

The organization’s founder, Duff Conacher, said people with kids in school are focused on getting their fall schedules in place and aren’t going to engage in the campaign. Meanwhile, university students are focused on their own return to classes, and many will have just moved and may not even have the proper ID to allow them to vote on election day.

It could discourage both those groups from participating in the campaign and voting on election day, Conacher said.

Weather in November shouldn’t be that much of a factor compared to October so the organization wants the four provinces to push back the election dates by a month. (Although the average daily temperature in October is about 10 degrees cooler than September and it is pretty common for snow to fly in October, especially in the north but even in the south.)

Elections Manitoba is enumerating on campus starting this week and students living in residence who are enumerated don’t require ID.

Don Plett, campaign co-chairman for the Manitoba Tories, said his party is ready to fight the election now since they think it is pretty unlikely Premier Greg Selinger will give in to the Democracy Watch request.

“Greg Selinger wouldn’t even call the legislature back to deal with the flood when people were drowning,” said Plett.

NDP spokesman Matt Williamson said the fixed election date ensures an election isn’t held when many people are away on holidays. He said the NDP has already made several changes to improve voter turnout, including the fixed date and more advance polls.

“Ultimately we believe the best way to ensure high voter turnout is to speak to young people, seniors and families about the issues they care about,” said Williamson.

It seems there is really never a perfect time to have an election.

When Manitoba first introduced the fixed election date legislation in 2008, the date was set for the second Tuesday in June every four years. However, the chief electoral officer recommended it be changed because the threat posed by floods and forest fires in the spring could hurt voter turnout.

So it was changed to the first Tuesday in October instead.

Saskatchewan is the pretty penny in Democracy Watch’s eyes, with its fixed-date election this year scheduled for Nov. 7. New Brunswick has also run afoul of the organization as it has fixed election dates scheduled for the fourth Monday in September, but its next election isn’t until 2014.

Democracy Watch will likely be even less happy in October 2015. If the current fixed dates all stand, not only will Manitoba, Newfoundland, Ontario and P.E.I. have elections at the beginning of October, the federal election will be held the third Monday in October.

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