Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Eating your ballot in Canada could land you in jail

In response to a reader's question on how to express disapproval at the ballot box, The London Free Press offers the following advice:

The answer is to decline the ballot. When the poll clerk hands you the slip, simply return it and say you decline. If you're thinking of eating the ballot, don't: Elections Canada expressly forbids the practice during voting.
The government has 'a right' to take your money against your will, but you have only one ballot and you are not allowed to sell it on ebay or otherwise transfer ownership nor wipe your ass with it or otherwise deface that piece of paper bought at the expense of exposing your name and current address to the band of thieves. And the prohibitions surrounding the electoral farce don't end there. Line up and shut up. From the Canada Elections Act:
Prohibition – use of loudspeakers on polling day

165. No person shall use a loudspeaking device within hearing distance of a polling station on polling day for the purpose of promoting or opposing a political party that is listed on the ballot under the name of a candidate or the election of a candidate.

S.C. 2001, c. 21, s. 13.

Prohibitions – emblems, etc., in polling station

166. (1) No person shall

(a) post or display in, or on the exterior surface of, a polling place any campaign literature or other material that could be taken as an indication of support for or opposition to a political party that is listed on the ballot under the name of a candidate, or the election of a candidate;

(b) while in a polling station, wear any emblem, flag, banner or other thing that indicates that the person supports or opposes any candidate or political party that is listed on the ballot under the name of a candidate, or the political or other opinions entertained, or supposed to be entertained, by the candidate or party; and

(c) in a polling station or in any place where voting at an election is taking place, influence electors to vote or refrain from voting or vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate.


(2) Despite paragraph (1)(b), a representative of a candidate in a polling station may, in the manner authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer, wear a badge identifying his or her function and the name of the political party that is listed on the ballot under the name of the candidate.

S.C. 2001, c. 21, s. 14.

Prohibitions re ballots, etc.

167. (1) No person shall

(a) apply for a ballot in a name that is not his or her own;

(b) use a forged ballot;

(c) knowing that he or she is without authority under this Act to do so, provide a ballot to any person; or

(d) knowing that he or she is without authority under this Act to do so, have a ballot in his or her possession.

Other prohibitions

(2) No person shall wilfully

(a) alter, deface or destroy a ballot or the initials of the deputy returning officer signed on a ballot;

(b) put or cause to be put into a ballot box a ballot or other paper otherwise than as provided by this Act;

(c) take a ballot out of the polling station; or

(d) destroy, take, open or otherwise interfere with a ballot box or book or packet of ballots.
From the minutes of The STANDING COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS, Tuesday, November 30, 1999:
Mr. Rob Anders: This is a question for the Elections Canada officials. As a matter of curiosity, have there been instances where police have been called in? I assume this is referring to the deputy returning officer. Are there situations where the deputy returning officer has had to perform an arrest without warrant?

Ms. Diane Bruyère: Using an arrest without going to a police officer is something that is extremely rare. It has happened maybe once or twice in the last 10 years.

The first step in the process for a deputy returning officer, according to his instructions, is to call the local law enforcement agency. In some areas of the country, however, that could be an hour away, so in a case like that they could use this. It would be a case, for example, where someone wanted to walk away with a ballot, something serious, or someone ate a ballot, and they couldn't get the local law enforcement people in quickly enough, because it is an offence.

Mr. Rob Anders: I'm sorry, this is—

The Chair: Mr. Anders, I distinctly heard you say “as a matter of curiosity”. I don't think at 10.50 p.m. it's time for curiosity. I really don't.

Mr. Rob Anders: It's very pertinent to the—

The Chair: Not as a matter of curiosity. You'll pardon me for being a little bit short with you—

Mr. Rob Anders: Knowing whether or not it has ever been used, Mr. Chairman—

The Chair: Put your question very quickly, please. Thank you.

Mr. Rob Anders: This is another matter. Can somebody be arrested for eating a ballot? That's the question I'm asking.

A witness: Yes, for destroying a ballot.


Anonymous said...

Actually, whereas Ontario law allows one to decline ones ballot in a provincial election/by-election, federal law does NOT allow one to decline ones ballot in a federal election.

Presumably, the government of Canada wants no record to be created of the number of people who are energetic enough to vote, but unwilling to vote for the folks on the ballot. They would prefer to maintain the illusion that (a) those who spoil ballots are all kooks, (b) all of those who do not vote at all are simply lazy, rather than folks who are morally opposed to empowering our enemies, and (c) that everyone who votes and does not spoil their ballot absolutely loves whoever it is they voted for.

Query: is it illegal to BURN ones ballot in front of the poll clerk?

Little Big Man

Anonymous said...

Some clarification: i.e., is burning ones ballot not an instance of "expression" (of the most important kind) protected by s. 2 of the Charter?

Pietr said...

Don't eat yer ballots!(Burp).