Friday, March 16, 2012

Robocalls and Voter identification - Department of the Bleeding Obivous

My Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with variants of this CBC story noting that the people robocalled on election day as part of the effort to misdirect voters to phony polling stations were people who had previously received calls from Conservative campaigns in which they identified themselves as non-Conservative voters. Most of the people who have reposted this story have been expressing shock.

I'm not shocked at all. I'm appalled that the information was used this way, but I figured that was how those lists were established in the first place. As I've noted earlier, I was one of the Guelph voters who received the false polling station robocall (and which I duly complained about to Elections Canada.) Earlier in the campaign, I had received calls from virtually every party, and yes, I told the Conservative caller that I wouldn't be supporting Marty Burke.

Political parties do this during elections. They call all the voters that they have phone numbers for, and identify them as definite yes, definite no, and swing voters. Those lists help them decide where to allocate resources for follow-up contact during the campaign. They are also the lists used by party volunteers on election day to manage their get-out-the-vote campaign - keeping track at polls of who has already voted or not, and then sending that information back to campaign offices to provide the basis for late-afternoon get-out-and-vote phone calls, and providing offers of rides to the polling stations to identified supportive voters who have not yet voted.

It's not a leap of logic to figure out that the culprit in this effort at voter suppression used this particular type of internal campaign information to target the fradulent robocalls- a "stop-the-opposition-vote" campaign, if you will. I'm astonished that no journalist had connected the dots so explicitly yet.

Here's the next story, for the naive among you. Some Conservative party member is going to come forward and say that they too got a robocall, and that they had told a Liberal or NDP campaign caller that they weren't going to vote for them.

A proper investigation should rely primarilly on the formal complaints to Elections Canada from election day. Anything that emerges later is likely going to be spin and misdirection.

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At 9:45 am, Blogger Seanerino said...

Very good point, Matthew. I agree that this was obvious. This story (like a lot of "revelations" in recent Canadian politics) is definitely unearthing the very limited investigative resources and skills of Canadian news media outlets. I'm still surprised that few outlets have made the connection back to campaign management training schools, like the one Emma Pullman recently wrote about:

At 1:50 pm, Anonymous Eamon said...

I actually noted to someone recently that based on the evidence that the public has been privy to, any of the federal parties could be responsible for the robocalls. After all, it seems like anyone could have a Racknine account, and every party has voter identification databases.

Would it be that surprising if the Liberal Party, realizing it was about to get smoked on e-day, instigated the calls? They were going to lose anyway, so why not frame the CPC? And though that argument will definitely be brushed off (why would they risk so much?), it isn't any less plausible than any other alternative. In fact, an LPC with little to lose would be much more likely to do something like than than a CPC that is near-guaranteed to win.

Someone went through a lot of trouble to cover this thing up, and that someone could be anyone. I think it is important that we remember that.


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