Calling Dr. Robot

You can tell there’s the massive insanity of the Republican primary going on when I check American news first, looking for Canadian content and not finding any, and then wonder why XXX current Canadian event is nowhere to be seen. I don’t normally care all that much about American politics, but there’s something about the current batch that just screams “craziness!” at me and makes me want to take a seat and munch popcorn. Then I remember that one of these people might actually become president, and I go cry in a corner.

Anyway, the news I was looking in the wrong place for was to see if there was anything new with the Robocalls scandal. For those not in the know, there are allegations being made that someone associated with the Conservative Party of Canada robo-called a shitload of people on election day last year to either discourage them from voting for a particular party, or to direct them to the wrong polling station.

I don’t believe for a second that Stephen Harper was aware of this (though I would be happy to be proven wrong and see him put through the wringer). I wouldn’t put it past him if he thought for 100% sure that he wouldn’t get caught, but he’s smart enough to know that this is the kind of crap that could completely sink him, and that nothing of this magnitude could have stayed secret for long.

It may sound like a harmless prank, but I’m curious to see how widespread it really was. In some ridings it seems to have been worse than others, but it wouldn’t have taken very many of these calls being successful to completely change the outcome of the elections. The Conservatives won a majority government, with 166 seats out of a possible 308 (54% of the available seats) but with only 39% of the popular vote.

The robocalls are important for several reasons. First of all it’s tampering with the electoral system. It’s as bad as voting twice or paying for votes or registering dead people for votes. Anything that prevents someone from voting needs to be nipped or it sends the message that it’s the sort of thing that you can get away with. I hope whoever’s responsible gets caught and does impressive rot-in-jail time.

For another thing, one has to remember just how close the last elections were. On paper, the conservatives have a heavy majority but the fact is that their 54% of the seats was given by a combined total of 6201 votes (Less now, since the source site hasn’t been updated to show that one riding was recounted and went to the NDP). That means that in some ridings, robocallers would only have needed to misdirect a dozen or so people to net the conservative victory. It was crazy enough when the thinness of their margin of victory came to light, but if it was thin and fraudulent, it makes it even more likely that the elections could have had a very different result.

I don’t know what the worst that could happen is for the Conservatives. Possibly if they’re found to have been directly involved the election could be declared invalid, I don’t know the procedure for that. I don’t even think another election would have different results. None of the four seated opposition parties have any sort of strong leadership, and they haven’t shown any sort of cohesion either. Ultimately I think if an election were to be held today that the results would be largely the same unless the NDP ate one of the other parties up in a merger. Even then, without the late Jack Layton in charge, I don’t think the NDP would get anywhere near the same number of votes or ridings as the last time.

I’m not even sure I’d like the idea of a full merger of the NDP-Liberal-Green. It would definitely net short-term gains for the moderate-left, but I see it as heading toward the two-party system the USA has, and that road leads to teh crazee. Good entertainment maybe, but less so when it’s in your own front yard. Hopefully I don’t have to break out the popcorn too soon.

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