Voter Suppression Kitchener South- Hespeler

29 Sep

By Yanna Green
Well, it’s election time again, and with it comes the insane amount of bullshit we all expect. What I did not expect was a change in the polling station in my area and the misinformation given to me by the returning officers office.

It all started Friday (September 25) when I came home to find my voter card had arrived. The first thing I noticed was my name was misspelled. Then I noticed that my polling station had changed from it’s normal location, Silver Heights P.S., to the Christian Heritage Center. This shocked me seeing as the old station was within walking distance for most (5-10min depending on the street) and had now been moved to a spot where it was a 40 minute walk or more.

I called Elections Canada to fix the misspelling of my name. I also asked why the polling station had been moved so far. They fixed my name no problem, but told me I would have to speak to Grace Loney, the returning officer for my area.

Elections Canada gave me a local number to call and speak with her. I called the number, and spoke with a woman that did not know where the polling station was. She told me there were plenty of polling stations in Cambridge and she would have to look up the information and call me back.

About five minutes later I received the phone call. Now the tone of the conversation changed completely. I noticed right away how curt and upset the woman now sounded. She told me repeatedly that the polling station had changed because “the location wasn’t conducive” when asked why it was moved. So, I changed the question “specifically why wasn’t the location conducive?” she replied with “uh, well parking”. I then stated that there was a new school two minutes down the street with plenty of parking. She asked what school and I said it was St. Gabriel. She then told me that polling stations weren’t allowed to be at Catholic schools.

The conversation continued around in circles. The woman said she can’t keep arguing with me about this and it wasn’t her decision. I told her I wasn’t arguing, I am just trying to get answers. I asked if it wasn’t her decision who made the decision and that I needed to speak with them. At that point she just kept telling me it was someone in Ottawa who made the decisions on placing polling locations. She refused to give me a name or contact information (likely because that statement was entirely false) and eventually said she would leave a message for the person in Ottawa who picks the location. I gave her my contact information, she said she would “pass it along” and ended the conversation with “I’m sure you will”.

All of this puzzled me since I was given the number for my area’s returning officer and staff from Elections Canada had told me on a few occasions now that the polling location is decided by the returning officer. It puzzled me more when I looked it up and found that polling locations can be held in Catholic schools.

I called the office again on Monday. I was given completely different answers to the same questions. This time they were slightly more helpful but much of what was said still sounded like bogus excuses. I am wondering why people who are suppose to be helping people vote are giving out false information. I am wondering why my polling station is so far and why I am hearing of this in various ridings. I am also curious as to where the new polling locations in Hespeler are and the way people vote. According to 2008 election data I have gone through, the locations are in slightly more conservative friendly areas.

The Working Center has tried to get a polling location at the soup kitchen in the Kitchener downtown core and were simply told no. It appears I am not the only one taking issue with the polling station locations, We need polling locations that make voting easy. Our democracy is at stake.


5 Responses to “Voter Suppression Kitchener South- Hespeler”

  1. 2jenn September 29, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    Having called Elections Canada myself several times this season, I can absolutely confirm that when the head office doesn’t know the answer to something, they say, “Hmmm, I don’t know. Can I call you back with that information?” And then they do. So why the local office would try bullshitting through an answer is a mystery (not). But yeah, a polling station a 40 minute walk away is NOT democracy when closer and I assume equally accessible options are available. It does beg the question on whether the Returning Officer needs to get approval for these decisions–or how do we hold such persons accountable?

  2. Laurel L. Russwurm September 29, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

    We have found our local Elections Canada office great to work with. There are a couple of things that need to be considered.

    First: Elections Canada returning offices — and staff — as well as polling stations — are temporary, and exist only for the duration of the election. That means people have to be hired and trained. What you describe as your first conversation sounds like someone who has not been properly trained more than maliciousness. Unfortunately sometimes people will answer questions to which they don’t have the answers.

    At our candidates meeting at our returning office this morning, we were told they are very under staffed, as are all the Waterloo Region EC offices.

    Every polling station must be rented, and the Safe Schools Act has changed the law regarding schools, which requires an increase in staff. St. Johns’s Kitchen can’t qualify as a polling station because — like many of the working Centre holdings– it is not accessible. (Yes, they have an elevator, but it is kept locked.) All polling stations must be accessible.

    I think Elections Canada does a hugely important job well, in spite of everything. Sure, it is not perfect, but nothing is. I believe they are working hard and doing their best.

    ~ Laurel Russwurm
    Campaign Manager for Bob Jonkman, Green Party

  3. ernst ritzmann September 29, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

    Thankyou for investigating and writing about this. We all expected tricks. Anyone driving to the polls should inform neighbors and give rides.

  4. Elizabeth Quinto September 29, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

    You can vote now by special ballot at Elections Canada location at 151 Savage Drive in Cambridge. That location takes Kitchener-South Hespeler votes.

  5. armedwithjello October 1, 2015 at 9:53 pm #

    As someone who has worked every election at every level in the past 17 years, I can tell you that operations at returning offices are pretty chaotic. A someone above said, the staff are temporary employees, and they have to follow loads of ever-changing rules put upon them by the federal government. The “Fair Elections Act” has made things even more complicated, as it puts strict rules on where polls can be placed. Some schools are considered inappropriate due to concerns of wheelchair accessibility. Some have issues with layout making it impossible for electors to get to the gym without walking through hallways between classrooms, causing a security risk. Frequently I hear voters moaning “but I *always* vote here!” the actual locations are chosen by the Returning Officer for your district. When you phone the office you must have been speaking with another staff member. However, the RO is so swamped she likely couldn’t remember the specific school you were talking about. She had to visit hundreds of locations to determine eligibility a polling sites, and now that it’s over she is dealing with all the stuff that comes with running an election.

    Elections Canada is trying to encourage people to vote, but has been ordered by this government not to put out advertising on TV and other methods. It is Harper and friends who are suppressing the vote.

    I strongly recommend that if you are able, you sign up to work on election. Day. It pays well, is easy work but a very long day, and you will learn an awful lot about the electoral process. I first worked as a poll clerk at age 19. I have been told that the returning offices are still seeking staff, and if you are over 18 and a Canadian citizen, you are eligible to work. Training is provided. Call your local returning office to apply.

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