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31,000 Canadians complain about voter suppression

Automated "robocalls" send voters to wrong polling stations, investigation shows.

Canada election complaints 2011 5 3Enlarge
Prime Minister Stephen Harper greets children at the school where he voted on May 2, 2011, in Calgary, Alta. More than 31,000 Canadians have complained to Elections Canada about harassing phone calls linked to the Conservative Party. (Mike Ridewood/GlobalPost)

More than 31,000 voters have lodged complaints with Elections Canada related to automated or harassing phone calls during last year’s federal campaign.

So-called “robocalls” are the source of Canadians’ ire, The Globe and Mail reported, linked to allegations Conservative Party candidates hired call centers to frustrate voters in competitive ridings.

“Elections Canada has received a high volume of complaints in recent days as a result of MPs and political parties calling on the public to send information to the agency,” the non-partisan federal agency said in a release. “More than 31,000 contacts have been initiated with Elections Canada by Canadians.”

In the last two votes combined, Elections Canada received about 829 complaints, the Globe said. As a result, Elections Canada has also launched an official investigation.

The Conservatives won a majority last May after two straight minority governments. During the May election, a small number of complaints surfaced about phone calls (both live and recorded) sending voters to the wrong polling station.

The depth of the alleged voter suppression surfaced last week when an Ottawa Citizen/Postmedia investigation unearthed dozens of complains in ridings across the country.

MP Joyce Murray said voters in her Vancouver-area riding received late-night “harassing” phone calls from someone claiming to represent her Liberal Party of Canada.

“We think this is highly undermining of our reputation as a fair and democratic country that adheres to the rule of law,” she said, Postmedia reported. “Clearly this cannot be swept under the rug by the Conservatives as they’re trying to do.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s party has denied all allegations. He suggested anyone connected to the fraud should face the full punishment of the law.

He also said any Conservative staffer, MP or party member with knowledge of the allegations should bring that evidence to Elections Canada.

“Of course, the Conservative Party of Canada is doing no such thing,” Dean Del Mastro, Harper’s Parliamentary secretary said, CBC reported. “We have made certain, as we’ve said in this House many times, everything that the Conservative Party has done is available to Elections Canada. We have nothing to apologize for.”

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/canada/120302/31000-canadians-complain-about-voter-suppression