Opinion: Elections Canada workers elect to make a difference

Well, that was fun! Forty days of campaigning culminating in a minority government in Ottawa. The next few months should be very interesting, to say the least.

Behind all the campaign rallies, leader announcements, party ads and so many candidate signs is the army of people required to conduct an election. A space in the mall was designated the Elections Canada office for Delta, where all the people who run the election huddle to prepare for the population to cast their ballots.

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I worked the election as a central poll supervisor, both the advance polls at the South Delta Recreation Centre and on election day at Beach Grove Elementary. I’m constantly amazed at how secure our system is, even though it is just a piece of paper and, this time, an oversized pencil.

Everyone working the poll is hired as a temporary Elections Canada employee. Yes, we were being paid for our time as some people thought it was a volunteer position. That’s where your $300 million goes when an election is called – lots of local people who spend that money in our community.

We had people ask about those pencils, and why the ballots aren’t marked in ink. “Is that so my vote can be erased?” was a question that some people asked. Rest assured, no vote was or would ever be erased. There are just too many people involved in the process, from poll workers to the people working for the parties.

The ballots have to balance with the number of voters, and a ballot erased would be considered spoiled. Too many spoiled ballots would trigger an investigation. And the penalties for messing with our electoral system are no slap on the wrist.

One thing you will hardly notice is people working the polls don’t wear any party colours. There were no blues, reds, oranges, purples, greens or aquas (the colour of the Bloc) at the polling station. It’s a small thing, but just speaks to the detail that is taken to ensure neutrality in the election process.

There may be a few hiccups in an election, especially at the polls. We aren’t experts, we are brought in, trained quickly and deployed with a ballot box and a bunch of slips of paper. But we all follow a very specific, secure process, and in the end the will of the people is expressed.

It looks like 66 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot, a little below the last election. There are always calls for mandatory voting, but I think that is the wrong thing to do. The people who vote spend time understanding who they want representing them, and at 66 per cent, that is more than an accurate representation of the will of the population. Ask any statistician, that is a great sample size.

A vote is a privilege in Canada, and should be your choice to make. Choosing not to exercise that right is also your right. I see our electoral system more than a chance to choose a government, but an opportunity to honour the thousands of people over the last century who fought for your right to mark that page. That’s why you should vote.

Congratulations to Carla Qualtrough on her re-election, and thanks for your service to all of us in Delta.

Brad Sherwin, MBA is a long-time resident of South Delta, and has almost 30 years’ experience in marketing, public relations and business strategy. He teaches marketing at Douglas College, coaches hockey goalies and is past president of the board of directors at Deltassist.  

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