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Councillors' 'willful ignorance' harms local democracy

Dear Editor,

Voters’ lists are recognized worldwide as the single most successful mechanism for ensuring fairness in elections. Voter trust in the electoral system is the fundamental base of our representative democracy. It is this trust in the system that gives elected officials the legitimacy to govern on behalf of their residents. At least, that’s how it should be.

In February 2018, Rocky View County (RVC) council directed administration to create a voters’ list, with work to start no later than this October. When staff returned with options on how to proceed with the voters’ list July 9, the majority of council chose to walk away – not only from their previous commitment to RVC residents, but from any respect for democratic principles.

Pressure to introduce a voters’ list had been growing over time as rumours of voter fraud have been rampant throughout the County for decades. The naysayers claimed there was no evidence of fraud, so why bother. Then, in the 2017 election, a clear-cut case occurred in Division 9. RCMP decided to not proceed with charges, and the candidate had won by enough votes that the fraud would not have changed the results.

It was this hard evidence supporting all the rumours and hearsay evidence that originally helped convince councillors to support the creation of a voters’ list. However, that memory appears to have been ignored and now, for the most superficial reasons, the six-person majority on council has killed any hope of RVC’s electoral processes moving into the 21st century. Let’s not forget that Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only provinces without mandatory municipal voters’ lists.

Immediately after Coun. Kissel reminded her colleagues about the voter fraud case in her division, Coun. Henn, who only won by four votes, insisted that since nothing was broken, there was no need to fix it. Deputy Reeve Schule then claimed controversies from the last provincial election were evidence that voters’ lists were unnecessary. He maintained this assertion even after Coun. Wright pointed out that those issues involved poor voter identification practices, not the voters’ list itself. Lamentably, Schule and Henn’s display of willful ignorance is a trait that is becomingly increasingly common with the majority of this council.

It is a sad day for RVC when the only voices speaking out for the importance of improving our democratic practices are the three councillors that the majority have attempted to silence through punitive sanctions. The majority keeps insisting that it is these three who are the problem, not their own disrespect for rules and core democratic principles.

Janet Ballantyne
Rocky View Forward


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