Friday, February 15, 2008

Stacking the returning officer deck with Tory hacks

About half of the 83 returning officers in next month's provincial election have past connections to the Conservative party, said an Elections Alberta spokeswoman.

Among the returning officers hired for the Alberta election are:
A failed candidate for a Progressive Conservative nomination.
The secretary of a Calgary Conservative constituency board.
The wife of the head of the nomination committee of a Tory riding association.
A woman who posted to a website photos of herself at Conservative party functions and wearing Tory T-shirts while campaigning for a leadership candidate

This isn't new unfortunately. When I ran in 2004, the officer I dealt with was almost pantingly eager to find an excuse to refuse my nomination papers with only hours left to the deadline, poring over every signature and refusing several. She even tried to challenge the party leader's signature, grinning happily as she did so and it took an incredulous call from a staffer at the party headquarters to convince her it was genuine. She processed my papers with sulky and unambiguous reluctance.

She also waxed rhapsodic about the Tory hobby horse of the faux senatorial vote - her condescending tone and sly grin making it clear she knew the New Democrats in her office had no interest in that dog and pony show.

When I voted after an exhausting but exhilarating campaign - for myself in case your wondering - I advised the poll worker that I wanted my senatorial ballot marked as refused and a Tory pollwatcher instantly zoomed in, virtually attached herself to my elbow and almost followed me into the voting booth.

For those who wonder why Albertans stand by the same party for so many decades - don't discount these kind of maneuvers along with rural oriented gerrymandering that contribute to the kind of margins the Tories pull off.

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