Advance polling now open


That would be advance polling in the provincial by-election in Cape St. Francis, Newfoundland and Labrador. And it’s well in advance: the by-election hasn’t been called and candidates have not been nominated. But while you wait for that to happen, you can fill your time by voting. Blogger (and former Paul Martin staffer) Mark Watton is not pleased. Make sure you click on the links in his blog post for the full context of this surreal situation.

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Advance polling now open

  1. In the last election in Alberta you were not able to vote until the election was called – but when it was called, voters in the special ballots (available soon after the writ was dropped) did not have a named candidate on their ballot but simply had to write in the party or person they wished to cast their ballot for. This was to accomodate those people who would be away during the whole election period – mostly snowbirds. I must confess, allowing a vote before the election date is set is a little different.

  2. A quick court challenge should have this knocked down in a jiffy… I’m surprised no one has tried!

  3. Scott – I think you are right. I can’t imagine it withstanding a legal challenge.

    And to think that in the recent general election the Leader of the Opposition lost his seat by eight votes and a judicial recount. A recount that neither he nor any party official bothered to show up for. I’m not sure what it says about the state of democracy in Newfoundland and Labrador, its legislature or its political parties, but whatever is says, it says a lot.

  4. Dannystan Greatest Country In The World?

    That’s what it says to me.

  5. Barry, that would certainly make sense.

    In the Newfoundland and Labrador version, votes can be cast before an election is called and before candidates are nominated.

    Since there are no candidates at this point, votes may only be cast for a political party. There is no indication of whether the political party is one of the three represented in the legislature currently or any other party.

    The provisions would likely not even pass a sniff test in a court. No one has challenged it yet.

  6. If Elections Canada officials saw this sort of thing while monitoring an election in, say, Africa, they’d never let it stand!

    How on EARTH is that allowed to go on? And are you seriously telling me that incumbents are allowed to campaign before their opponents are even allowed to register as candidates!!?!?!?!

    That’s not just undemocratic, that’s TWISTED.

    Can we kick NL out of confederation for this? (or, at least, threaten to?).

  7. Actually Ed – You can vote for more than just parties. You can vote “Independent”. I called the Chief Electoral Office last year and asked. Then when I asked them what would happen if more than one Independent candidate ran, they said they hadn’t thought about how they might deal with that. I swear. I called and asked. That’s the response I received.

    But it gets better. You can vote for the name of someone you think might be running. They’ll accept that, too. It would be quite interesting to see what would happen if John Doe declared his intention to run as a Tory and then ran a Liberal instead. Presumably, all of his special votes would still count.

    And it gets better still – there’s no criteria that says who can or cannot use the special ballot rules. It is perfectly acceptable for a determinative number of ballots to be cast weeks before candidates can legally enter the race.

    As for the legal grounds to challenge it – you don’t need to look beyond the second subsection of the Act, which defines a candidate. It contradicts what the amendments now allow as far as special ballots are concerned. A vote for a candidate cannot legally be a vote for a candidate if the candidate cannot legally be a candidate. The thing speaks for itself. Yet there’s nobody in Dannystan willing to challenge it, and nobody (as yet) willing to even write about it.

    Hopefully this will invite some scrutiny.

  8. Its really too bad that this country doesn’t have some kind of federally funded programme that would assist an individual or group of Newfoundlanders, who would want to challenge in the courts the constitutionality of this patently undemocratic law, but who otherwise might not have much access to the corridors of power.

  9. Actually, I thought of a better way to put pressure on the province.

    Is there any way (and maybe there isn’t) that we could prevent NL MPs from sitting in the House of Commons on the basis of the fact that they weren’t elected in free and fair elections? I bet things would get straightened out PDQ if we refused to let NL participate in the Federal Legislature until they ensure that their electoral process can at least pass a basic laugh test.

    And let’s be honest, if incumbents are allowed to campaign, and voters vote, before the challengers are even allowed to register as candidates, that’s not just undemocratic, it’s BLATANTLY undemocratic. That’s the kind of thing that gets countries suspended from international organizations.

    I await with bated breath the application to have Canada suspended from the Commonwealth over this. It would serve us right for letting something so inane continue in our own country.

  10. Lord Kitchener – That may be a bit too far. These are byelections, so there are no incumbents. (Although your concerns are somewhat valid in the event of a general provincial election). Nonetheless, I am happy to see that others have the same shocked reaction I had.

    What we really need is to find a resident and eligible voter of Cape St. Francis (or for that matter Lewisporte, where this circus will repeat itself soon enough) who is willing to challenge this.

  11. “Its really too bad that this country doesn’t have some kind of federally funded programme that would assist an individual or group of Newfoundlanders, who would want to challenge in the courts the constitutionality of this patently undemocratic law, but who otherwise might not have much access to the corridors of power.”


    Good one.

  12. Lord Kitchener, what do federal MP’s have to do with provincial elections laws? This isn’t the U.S.

  13. At first I thought this was some kind of joke and then it turns out that indeed it is a joke, only very sadly one based on the reality. I love the bit about what happened if more than one independent runs!

  14. David,

    I take your point (and mine really was, mostly, facetious) but really it’s just about how does the nation (all of us collectively, not the “federal government”) punish the legislature of NL for passing such an undemocratic Election Act? More importantly, what can we do that would force them to act and fix it? I think maybe threatening to kick them out of Confederation might lead to a “Fine, see ya!”. Maybe keeping them in Confederation but not letting them participate federally until they clean up their own house would do it.

    That said, I think maybe I should have put a sarcasm tag in my comment somewhere. I’m sincerely outraged at what’s going on there, but my suggested responses weren’t really meant seriously.

  15. Anyone in the province can challenge the law (they don’t have to be experiencing a election at the time). In fact, anyone outside could do it too if they were bored. No need to “punish” the province, the courts can do it just fine, thank you.

    Isn’t there a federal warning about going to see a professional if your elections last too long? I heard it can lead to permanent damage!

  16. Thanks for the correction Mark.

    You just made the whole thing even sillier than I thought it was.

    Meanwhile, I thought you’d have to be a viter in one of the two districts to challenge this in court.

    If anyone in the province can challenge the law…hmmmm.

  17. NL is just sticking to its knitting.

    It’s very strange knitting.

    Nothing to see here, move along folks. Ignore the man behind the curtain.

  18. ~ using the I’ll sue you function on keybaord ~

  19. Having an election without candidates strikes me as a novel experiment and well worth a try.

  20. I agree.  Candidates can be so odious…

  21. Exactly! The point of democracy is not to choose good leadership, it’s to feel good about yourself and your society as you put the ballot in the box and walk out of the polling station with your eye a little brighter. Thinking about the Sudan, perhaps, or the 2005 Iraq election.

    Do candidates in any way help with getting to that feeling? On the contrary, they often spoil the whole experience. Having to choose among them can be quite confusing. Why can’t we just vote for democracy *per se*?

  22. Has anyone ever given any thought as to why we need politicians anymore at all after all folks the history of democracy has it’s origins in electing representatives to go to some central location and represent people from home. This was necessary when not all voters had access to all information and then the time it took for transportation to some central locale for decision making – but nowadays with the web why not just have a secure website logon and then setup a decent portal and everyone can just vote on the issue that interests them why have representatives when we know so much more than the politicians do anyways.

  23. Wayne – not a bad idea, except that this would only perpetuate the secret ballot. This may be the central problem. For instance, I have roughly 1200 tenants on my land at present, and as things stand I have almost no idea who they vote for. (Except for the big posters of Elizabeth May they like to carry around on parade.) So I’m reduced to canceling leases at random when my guy doesn’t win – or wins by a very small margin. How would the Internet help? I’d have to track down all the IP addresses (very costly) and cross-index them to potato consumption (very complex). Any ideas?

  24. Wayne: Because most of us are too busy with real lives to be politicians and consider the various issues that they do every day.

    Part of why our society has done so well is specialization. The engineer concentrates on engineering, not butchering his food, policing his neighborhood, or ensuring the highways are clear so things can reach him.

    Politicians are no different. They’re the people we pay to try to ensure that all the little things that society does each day are actually the things that would benefit us. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time to put together a coherent budget for the country. I have some ideas on where I think it’d be good to spend money, but doing the whole thing? No way. And most other people are the same.

    Going to direct democracy instead of representative democracy has the problem that it would mean special interest groups run the country, which would in turn mean that the group with the most money wins, since they can pay people to hold and spread opinions.

    It also has the problem of who decides what’s a valid issue? Can anybody raise an issue? How many times? How many different ways? IE, apologize to the natives for the reserve schools. Okay. That’s an issue. Now some people believe there should be reparations. If they got voted down on that, some believe strongly enough that they’d come up with other idea that essentially mean the same thing. Basically it boils down to who’s got the most stamina, and I’ll tell you right now, it’s always the extremists which have the most stamina, no matter which side of the issue they’re on. So as a country we’d lurch from extreme position to extreme position. Bad news.

    It can work locally. In a small community where everybody can talk to each other and in general come to a consensus, but it doesn’t scale well, which is why we invented representative democracy in the first place.

  25. “Part of why our society has done so well is specialization. The engineer concentrates on engineering, not butchering his food, policing his neighborhood, or ensuring the highways are clear so things can reach him.”

    T Thwim You surprise me, I had no idea you were fan of Adam Smith.

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