No Legal Method to Spoil a Ballot - Become a Candidate if You're Disgusted !
Date: Monday, January 23 2006
There's no legal method to spoil a ballot, warns Elections Canada
OTTAWA (CP) - Disaffected and angry voters, take note: spoiling your ballot is a crime.
There's no legal way to express disgust for politics via the ballot, whether by scribbling on it, writing obscenities, or drawing pictures.
According to section 167(2)(a) of the Canada Elections Act, "no person shall wilfully alter, deface or destroy a ballot." Conviction could bring a $500 fine or three months in jail - even though the chances of getting caught are effectively nil.
Nil, that is, unless the spoiler wants to make a show of the protest - by eating the ballot, for example.
Members of the Edible Ballot Society tried that method in the 2000 election but the trend faded after a number of prosecutions.
Spoiling a ballot in privacy is not much of a protest, suggests Elections Canada spokesman Dana Doiron.
"Nobody gets real satisfaction out of it because nobody knows about it," Doiron said.
"It can't be attributed to the individual because of the secrecy. It just goes unrecorded, unnanounced, unknown. So you've wasted your time going to the poll in the first place."
Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley has mused about introducing some legal method for registering a protest vote, but there have been no concrete proposals.
So what's a disgusted voter to do?
"There are laws against disrupting the conduct of the polls, so you can't go there and shout and scream and stamp your feet," said Doiron.
The best strategy is to become a candidate, or try to find a candidate worthy of support, he said.
But many Canadians are taking the lazy way out and staying home. Rates of voter participation have been declining with every election in recent history.
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[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 24, 2006]