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Officials Warned to Be on Lookout for Voter Suppression Tactics in Canadian Election

Scare tactics, intimidation, misinformation, and contesting eligibility could all be deployed to suppress voters this election, according to Elections Canada.
Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

The agency overseeing Canada's federal election told its staff to watch out for increasingly sophisticated ploys to suppress voters in the upcoming Oct. 19 vote, the Canadian Press reported Monday. News of Elections Canada's concerns came the same day a hoax website was discovered purporting to solicit campaign donations on behalf of convicted elections fraudster Michael Sona.

In May 2014, Elections Canada gave a presentation pointing to voter suppression in the US and identifying exactly how successful efforts to stop specific voting groups happens, according to an access to information request obtained by the media outlet.


It's a more acute concern now because of the reams of personal information available online, which can help pinpoint people who are more likely to vote for a particular party. Targeting voters using this method has become a problem south of the border.

Scare tactics, intimidation, misinformation, and contesting eligibility could all be deployed to suppress voters this election, according to the Elections Canada presentation obtained by the Canadian Press.

Elections Canada isn't the only one worried about election fraud. A survey released in 2014 found almost 70 percent of Canadians were either somewhat concerned or very concerned about illegal manipulation of future elections.

The survey followed media reports on the 2011 robocalls scandal, which saw Conservative party staffer Michael Sona convicted of voter suppression. He was the only one charged in the scandal, but the judge in the case said he likely had help.

On Monday, public outrage followed the creation of a hoax website by a Toronto web developer that solicited political donations on Sona's behalf.

In the voter suppression scandal, nearly 1,400 individual Canadians reported phone calls harassing them or misinforming them of their polling station. The calls mostly targeted NDP and Liberal supporters.

Then-Liberal leader Bob Rae said the robocalls helped defeat Liberal candidates in 27 ridings, likening the calls to "stuffing a ballot box."

Elections Canada identified 7,600 robocalls in Guelph telling voters to go to the wrong polling station.

A paper by authors from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, which was revised earlier this year, estimated that the illegal demobilization of the robocalls scandal reduced voter turnout by about four percent in 27 districts.

In a documentary about Canadian election fraud, NDP leader Tom Mulcair said, "This whole question of voter suppression — I don't think too many Canadians would have believed it would come to Canada 10 or 15 years ago. …We had better start protecting our electoral system."

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter: @hilarybeaumont