Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner October 7, 2021
I won’t soon forget September 20, Election Day. Not because I had to stay up late, but because participating so fully as a volunteer in our democratic process, gave me a lift.
It had been a 30-day campaign with highlights and low lights. Among the low were the dreadfully-moderated CBC English language Leaders Debate with Sachi Kurl of Angus Reid Polling inserting her views, and the gravel-throwing incident in Bolton by louts as the prime minister visited.
But it was for me an encouraging day, not because my favored candidate won. She didn’t, to my consternation. But because at every step, Canadian values, procedures and personnel were in evidence.
The Canadian public service is widely admired and respected around the world. Compare the calm, fair, national administration of this election with the chaos at present in the U.S., as an ex-president telephones state election officials trying to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the process (the so-called “stolen election”) and demands multiple recounts. He shamelessly leads his country down the slope to civic disorder.
Here, after a grueling campaign, high feelings and some antagonistic remarks, good order prevailed. I was assigned a scrutineering job, an unpaid gig whereby one sits at a poll, assigned by one’s party, staying silent and watching for any funny business. There was not a sign of that at my poll. Some voters are my peers, and they respect what is going on too, from decades of taking part, and perhaps from remembering a war that guaranteed this very exercise.
In 1998, I was living in rural Jamaica and came to admire a group of citizens trying to safeguard a free and fair election in a turbulent country. The group, among whom John and I had many friends, was called CAFFE (Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections).
It was non-partisan. They needed scrutineers. So I went to the dilapidated nearby elementary school in Port Maria, with my lunch and water bottle. The poll opened an hour late because much sweeping had to be done. I was wide-eyed when one candidate came through noisily, carrying a gun. He didn’t threaten with it, but I recorded this drama for CAFFE. With a shaky hand.
I also noticed political signs at the entrance, a no-no. In an effort to prevent some voters from voting more than once, the Electoral Commission had instituted a dip-your-finger in indelible ink requirement. That procedure caused some hilarity but was duly observed. Back in Kingston later, we met a lad who told us he had voted six times. Sigh.
The most memorable moment occurred when a smartly-attired officer from the Jamaica Defence Force strode into the room. He held an envelope high and barked, “I am here to present these 45 ballots from my unit to the representative from CAFFE.” I rose nervously. He saluted me. I deposited it.
Of course that was twenty years ago, and CAFFE is no longer needed. I keep in touch with founding member Fabian Brown. He briefed me before I made my remarks at the closing ceremony of Jamaican Self-Help last Saturday in Peterborough.
It is so crucial for democracy that voters trust the voting system. In Canada, on September 20, from my perspective, integrity was preserved at all times, and so was dignity. In the sense that honesty prevails in the electoral system here, it has become a non-issue. It is good for us though, to bring it to mind from time to time.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or from >Amazon<