Rick Mercer gets the youth vote out, Conservatives shut it back in

Rick Mercer gets the youth vote out, Conservatives shut it back in

Rick Mercer might actually be the most powerful spokesperson for the youth vote in Canada. After years of national hand-wringing over declining turnout, and particularly the anemic youth voting, Mercer’s rant (above) has helped mobilized an actual pro-voting uprising among Canada’s 18- to 24-year olds. Who could argue against an organic surge in the youth vote? According to the Guelph Mercury, the Conservative Party of Canada:

The [Conservative] Party wrote Elections Canada on Thursday to request that none of the votes collected during the University of Guelph session be included in the final tally of votes in the Guelph riding. The letter was sent by lawyer Arthur Hamilton, of Toronto-based law firm, Cassels Brock.

The move has generated considerable controversy at the university, home of the first youth “vote mob” encouraging students to vote.

In his letter, Hamilton alleges the polling station was illegal and also that partisan election material was present at it, which is a violation of the Canada Elections Act.

The Tories fought back this morning, restating that the Guelph poll in question was illegitimate, but they’ve opted to leave it to Elections Canada to enforce rules:

Pierre Boutet of Elections Canada informed our legal counsel that the Guelph poll was not authorized by Elections Canada. Given the admission that the local Returning Officer acted without authority, we leave it to Elections Canada to enforce the rules and uphold the law….In 2006, the Liberal Party successfully petitioned Elections Canada to quash an unauthorized poll set up on the University of Toronto campus by the Returning Officer in Trinity-Spadina.  The issue was then, as it is now, ensuring that the rules are followed.

Obviously, if there was serious law-breaking going on, it needs to be dealt with immediately, but it’s hard not to compare the Conservatives’ sudden passion for the sanctity of democracy with Stephen Harper dismissing the contempt of Parliament as “bickering.” Do we even need to point out that university campuses aren’t a hotbed of Conservative support? Or that Guelph is a swing riding that the Liberals won by only three points in 2008?

There are 18 more youth-oriented vote mobs planned before the end of this campaign. If the Guelph controversy teaches the organizers anything, it’s to make sure all 18 of them are beyond reproach.

• Conservatives want to dump Guelph U student votes [Guelph Mercury]

UPDATE (April 25, 2:18 p.m.): Elections Canada has allowed the votes from the University of Guelph special ballot to be counted in the election. “All information at our disposal indicates that the votes were cast in a manner that respects the Elections Canada Act and are valid,” the body said in a statement.