It’s safe to assume that an approving retweet from Donald Trump – with an all-caps “THIS SAYS IT ALL!” – was not what the social-media manager at Elections Canada was after.
But even though the President of the United States tried to draft a Canadian agency’s words into his non-stop campaign of postelection disinformation, this was one of Mr. Trump’s rare recent tweets that Twitter did not hit with a warning label.
And that’s because Elections Canada’s message, intended for a Canadian audience, is true. It doesn’t support Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud; it simply points out that one type of alleged fraud is impossible here.
“Elections Canada does not use Dominion Voting Systems,” reads the Nov. 16 tweet. “We use paper ballots counted by hand in front of scrutineers and have never used voting machines or electronic tabulators to count votes in our 100-year history.”
The voting mechanism is as simple as can be. It’s hack-proof because the technology involved is nothing more than a piece of paper and a pencil. You mark your “X” on the paper, and you put it in a box. Once the polls close, human beings count the ballots by hand. Representatives of the candidates, known as scrutineers, watch the counting. That’s it.
There are things about Canadian elections that could be improved – this page has advocated for more advance polling days and advance polling places, and for treating election day as election week. But the basic mechanics of how voters make their choice, and how millions of choices are counted, doesn’t need to change. It’s not broken; please don’t fix it.
Canadians have recently been consuming a heavy diet of highly processed U.S. election news, and one of the fattiest stories is Mr. Trump’s claim that, but for fraud on a mass scale, he would have won the election. One of his supporters’ favourite targets, albeit with no actual evidence of errors, has been electronic-voting devices. They are used in many states, and some are manufactured by Dominion Voting.
As the name implies, the company is based in Canada. What’s more, the chairman of the company’s advisory board is Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the former boss at Elections Canada.
So it’s understandable that Elections Canada wanted to remind people of American election practices that don’t exist here. Mr. Trump tried to turn that into an attack on Dominion, but it’s not. It’s simply pointing out that an unfounded allegation about defects in U.S. voting bears no relation to Canada, where we vote and count votes differently.
When it comes to ballots, Canada follows the KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid. Our elections generally involve voting for one representative at a time – the local Member of Parliament federally, or a member of the provincial legislature. One ballot, one short list of names, one “X.” Simple.
A U.S. election is not simple. This month, Americans voted for a slew of different representatives, from president and members of Congress to state and local offices, often including judges, prosecutors and sheriffs – all on the same day and the same ballot. Ballots are long and complex, for voters and vote-counters alike.
That’s why the U.S. developed the first mechanical voting machines back in the 1890s, succeeded over the decades by such innovations as punch-card ballots, touch-screen devices and electronic-vote scanners. All that technology is justified by the intricacy of American ballots.
Some Canadian elections, at the provincial and local level, have experimented with new voting technologies. For example, in Ontario’s 2018 provincial election, voters did not drop their ballots into a box, but instead fed them into an electronic scanner.
But in Canada at least, a vote-counting scanner is a high-tech solution to a non-problem, creating the possibility of errors and confusion where none currently exist. It’s why Elections Ontario should junk the machines before the next election. It’s why Elections Canada has never used them, and never should.
Canada’s traditional system for marking a ballot, casting a ballot and counting a ballot works. It’s virtually tamper-proof. It’s transparent to those counting the votes, to the competing parties and to election officials. Elections Canada was right to defend it – even if Mr. Trump tried to twist the agency’s defence of the Canadian way into his latest attempt at discrediting an American election.
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