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Should political parties get inside information on whether you voted or not? – Part 1

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 @ 3:48 AM

Should political parties get inside information on whether you voted or not? – Part 1

By Peter Ewart

The provincial government has put forward a Bill requiring Elections BC to hand over voter participation information to political parties as to whether or not a voter casts a ballot in a provincial election (see previous article) (1). This Bill originally came about as a result of pressure last Fall from 4 political parties – the Liberals, NDP, Greens and Conservatives. But in the last few days deep cracks have formed in the support for this Bill.

As things stand under the old legislation, scrutineers from political parties have been allowed access to polling stations on election day in order to record which citizens have cast a ballot. The aim has been to allow the party election machine time to re-visit or phone supporters who have not yet voted that day, and thus, the logic goes, increase voter turnout.

But, under the old legislation, Elections BC only allowed access to this information when voting was going on – not after the election. For the political parties, this has posed difficulties. For example, it has been increasingly difficult for these parties to find volunteers to be scrutineers at every polling station. In addition, the information parties gather on voting day as to precisely who has voted is often not exact or is incomplete.

So the idea behind this new legislation is for Elections BC, which is a non-partisan body, to essentially take on the job formerly done by the parties, compile the list of all those who voted or did not vote, and hand them over to the parties after the election.

However, recently the Privacy Commissioner of BC (2), along with several MLAs, IntegrityBC, media pundits and others, have come out swinging against this legislation, arguing that it violates the privacy of voters in the province.

According to Independent MLA Vicki Huntington, this is an “incredibly self-interested piece of legislation”; and she goes on to say that “privacy concerns [of voters] are being brushed aside for the sake of making political campaigning easier for the parties” (3). She further points out that the new legislation discriminates against independent candidates as only registered political parties will be allowed access to the voter-turnout information.

Andrew Weaver, MLA for the Green Party, argues that “it’s nobody’s business who has or has not voted” (4). Both he and Huntington believe that even the present arrangement, whereby parties and candidates do have access to voter-turnout information on election day, is deeply flawed. In their opinion, no access at all should be allowed to this information before, during or after an election.

In terms of the problem of low voter turnout and lack of volunteers for the political parties, Weaver says that the solution is to give voters “something to vote for” and participation will increase.

According to press reports (5), even the Liberals and NDP are feeling the heat over this issue and are acknowledging that there could be a problem. Laura Miller, executive director of the BC Liberal Party, says that she “appreciates the privacy commissioner raising flags,” and believes that, if the legislation passes, the privacy commissioner should be consulted on the rules (6).

NDP House Leader Mike Farnworth also acknowledges that there is “validity and legitimacy to some of the issues” that the privacy commissioner has raised, and that an amendment may be needed “to tighten the language” as to how this voter-turnout information will be used (5).

Nonetheless, at least as things stand now, both the Liberals and NDP will be supporting the main thrust of the legislation, i.e. that political parties, after the election, will be handed over the complete list of all citizens who voted or did not vote, along with their addresses.

What problems or even dangers could this pose to the privacy rights of British Columbians? Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series of articles.

Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca  


  • Ewart, Peter. “New voting Act violates privacy of citizens.” 250 News. April 21, 2015.
  • Denham, Elizabeth. Letter. “Bill 20 – Election Amendment Act; OIPC File F15-60984.” Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner. April 13, 2015.
  • Huntington, Vicki. “Huntington opposes plan for increased access to voter information.” www.vickihuntington.ca. April, 22, 2015.
  • Weaver, Andrew. Global News. April 23, 2015.
  • Leyne, Les. “Objections grow to providing vote data.” Vancouver Courier. April 23, 2015.
  • Palmer, Vaughn. “Political ground shifts on voter list legislation.” Vancouver Sun. April 25, 2015.



This is getting stupid.. What a perfect way to get people not to vote. Who I vote for is only my business no one else’s. Clark is running over our rights with careless abandon.. Ripping up teachers contracts… Destroying our education.. Healthcare is a long line of suffering..now this.. Yikes

and they shouldn’t be calling my phone every other day on a supposed poll either.

Let it be known now that Clark will never get my vote nor any other Liberal .I will make sure I vote so it will be one vote against her .

The story states that BOTH the Liberals and NDP will support this legislation. Our rights are being eroded by all levels of government and are supported by other political parties. The reality is, we have the power – what is it going to take for people to stand up and say “Enough”?

Is this pushback against all of us that won’t participate with pollsters ? This bill is as disgusting as christys lack of respect for British Colombians . And shame on you Horgan . Mind your own business .

And once again the only party on the side of British Columbians is The Green Party .

Ataloss, read the first paragraph of the article

Read the article P Val. They’re not proposing to record who you voted for but rather whether you voted or not. What’s so intrusive about that?

It’s nit information I want anyone to have but myself..that’s what’s so bloody intrusive.

Can’t you see it now.. Someone who didn’t vote getting constantly hounded by all political parties to vote for them next election..talk about invasion of privacy.

The political parties should get nothing other than the gross figures showing what percentage of voters cast their ballots—in total and for each Party and candidate. That is public information to which everyone is entitled and is a barometer by which to measure the general approval rating of politicians. These people seem to spend an inordinate amount of their time in devising means to control citizens rather than serve them. They are getting their roles and relationships increasingly inverted. Do I have a right to go over to my neighbours and demand to know whether or how they voted? People don’t vote generally because they see no essential differences among the parties, are disillusioned and dissatisfied and see no satisfactory alternatives—or so happy that they don’t have anything to complain about (rather unlikely). This appears to be just another collusion of parties to inflict the same old impositions, penalties and outrages while desperately seeking means to regain their credibility with a disaffected electorate by extending their Babylonian system of government, i.e., the “eyes and ears of the King.” I hope this outrageous and transparent attempt to extend establishment power backfires on its chief proponents and that they pay dearly for it. If the Parties want support they they should get it through publicly promulgated policy proposals—not by spying on and harassing their constituents. I suppose that having obtained this personal information the next step by the politicians will be to legislate compulsory voting in another pathetic attempt to establish their legitimacy in spite of lagging public support. What hypocrites!

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