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Friday, February 06, 2009

being lorne gibson.

After a rough couple years as Alberta's Chief Electoral Officer, it remains to be seen whether Lorne Gibson's will continue to hold the position when his contract comes up for renewal in March 2009.

During the 2008 Provincial election, the impartiality of the electoral process came under question when it was discovered that a large number of local Returning Officers had strong links to the governing PC Party. In 2006, Gibson submitted a long list of recommendations to the Legislative Assembly to change how elections are organized by giving more authority to the non-partisan elections office and he recently called for a revamping of Alberta's financial disclosure rules.

Word on the street is that Gibson will soon be inviting each of Alberta's registered political parties to appoint two representatives to a committee that will be charged with comprehensively reviewing Alberta's elections processes from their standpoint.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe if Gibson had spent more time doing his job, instead of whining that his recommendations hadn't been dealt with, the last election wouldn't have resulted in stories like the one below, where your former boss takes Gibson to task. A proper enumeration might have solved a lot of problems, don't you think? I would also point out that the premier has said returning officer appointments will be given to the CEO's office. I do feel it is incumbent upon me to point out that Mr. Gibson has been a tad disingenuous on the whole RO issue. All returning officer recommendations were provided to him. He and his staff interviewed all candidates and rejected a number of them for various reasons. All the individuals who became ROs were accepted by him, BEFORE they were appointed by order-in-council. I'm told that PC office staff spent months finding 83 acceptable candidates, after he rejected numerous folks who were experienced, or drove them away (several qualified individuals attended his training sessions, then quit).

Taft urges election probe
March 3 vote 'worst-run' ever, Liberal leader says in letter to auditor general
Jason Fekete, Calgary Herald; Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, July 07 2008
Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft is calling on the province's auditor general to investigate a blizzard of irregularities from the March 3 provincial vote, insisting it was the "worst-run election ever."

In a letter to be sent today to Auditor General Fred Dunn, the Liberal leader requests a special investigation into the operations and conduct of Elections Alberta, the agency responsible for provincial elections.

Based on first-hand accounts and hundreds of pages of supporting documents collected by the Liberals, Taft charges there was widespread chaos in the lead-up to the election, and at polling stations on voting day.

The irregularities identified by the Liberals -- including incomplete voters lists, unacceptably long lineups and erroneous voter information cards -- mirror many of findings of a Calgary Herald report published last week.

"The fair and proper conduct of elections is one of the very foundations of democracy," says Taft's letter to Dunn, who is responsible for auditing Elections Alberta.

"It is crucial that public confidence in the election system not degenerate, and I believe there is a risk of that happening if these problems are not addressed."

Election-day woes contributed to Alberta recording what's believed to be the lowest voter turnout ever for a provincial election in Canada: just 41.4 per cent.

The Herald investigation found that hundreds of electors at some polling stations weren't on the voters list, despite living in the same residence for years and having been accounted for in previous elections.

That meant voters had to be sworn in with a statutory declaration to get on the list of electors, which produced long lineups.

Several polling stations reported that frustrated voters walked out without ever casting a ballot.

Returning officers -- the people responsible for the election proceedings in each riding -- said there was "a lot of chaos" on March 3, due to the sloppy voters list, poorly trained election workers and voting cards directing people to the wrong polling station.

The Liberals also have uncovered similar problems with a binder full of documents and supporting information that will be delivered to Dunn.

Taft worries the troubles on election day are only feeding public cynicism and apathy about politics, and further eroding voter turnout.

Chief Electoral Officer Lorne Gibson said in a recent interview that he was particularly troubled by stories of voters being inexplicably left off the list of electors, which caused many to walk out without casting ballots.

Yet Gibson maintained the March election was "pretty typical" compared to most campaigns. "Things seemed to go fairly well on election day," he said. "I wasn't disappointed."

Taft, however, said Sunday in an interview that he's extremely disappointed in Gibson and Elections Alberta, insisting the agency isn't properly addressing the voting problems and that an independent review by the auditor general is needed.

"We need somebody from the outside to investigate," Taft said. "This is about protecting the very foundation of a functioning democracy.

The Liberal party received reports of voters being directed to incorrect polling stations in constituencies across the province. One such account from a scrutineer said at least 100 people were directed to two or three separate polling stations on election day, in a frantic effort to cast a ballot.

Some estimates from election workers suggested the voters list was only about 50-per-cent correct, and that hundreds of vexed voters left certain polling stations without marking an X.

Further impediments to voting, the Liberals argue, included more than 7,000 students at the University of Lethbridge not having a mobile poll, despite repeated requests for one.

Beyond front-line election day problems, the Grits also highlight that about half of the 83 returning officers appointed in Alberta had partisan connections to the Progressive Conservative party.

Gibson, the chief electoral officer, noted the Tory government has ignored all of the 99 recommendations he made to the province nearly two years ago on how to improve the electoral system.

One of his top recommendations was for the government to surrender its power to appoint returning officers to Elections Alberta, so that the agency can name the officials at its convenience.

He insists that the government's late appointment of returning officers was responsible for many of the problems on election day.

Premier Ed Stelmach has promised to review Gibson's report.