Dr. Dawg

Robocons go live

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Robofraud was not the only voter suppression technique linked to the Conservatives during the last election campaign. Investigative journalists Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor have just reported on a bank of live callers who operated in fourteen ridings, mostly hard-fought ones in Southern Ontario.

Their task? To harass Liberal voters while pretending to be Liberal campaign workers.

Some of this was reported in bits and pieces at the time. It took the Postmedia dynamic duo, however, to expose the obviously systematic and sweeping nature of the subterfuge.

Many [voters] received calls in the middle of the night from callers claiming they represented the local Liberal candidate.

Jewish voters in two ridings complained of receiving repeated phone calls at meal time on the Saturday Sabbath. In another riding where the Liberal candidate was of Pakistani heritage, some said the callers mimicked a South Asian accent.

People who received the calls report that the callers would phone repeatedly, irritating the recipients, and then speak to them rudely.

Maher and McGregor note:

The Conservatives are particularly adept at tracking voters in every riding using a centralized database called CIMS (Constituent Information Management System), with the name and numbers of identified Conservative supporters and opponents alike. Local campaigns are given access to CIMS.

Did this have an effect on the voters? You bet:

In Niagara Falls, Ont., Liberal candidate Bev Hodgson, who was trying to win the seat from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, was victimized, according to Craig Brockwell, her campaign manager.

“We had been receiving complaints in the campaign headquarters that had said, ‘We don’t need you calling us back anymore. We’re not going to vote for your candidate because of the call received last night.’”

…In London North Centre, in Ontario, toward the end of the campaign, Liberal MP Glen Pearson started to get a frosty reception at some doors, with voters telling him they were upset because live callers were telling them he spends six months of every year in Africa.

“It was primarily the fact that I had spent a lot of time in Africa,” he said. “It’s one week a year. And it’s in January, when the House isn’t even sitting.”

Pearson believed the calls were timed so that he didn’t have time to respond to the unfair and untrue charges. Pearson has three Sudanese children and visits Africa annually with them.

He lost his race to Conservative Susan Truppe by 1,665 votes.

It’s frankly risible to attempt to put all this on the callow Michael Sona. As the Ottawa Citizen’s Dan Gardner sarcastically Tweeted: “That was one energetic, enthusiastic, entirely self-motivated young man.”

Where did many of the fake calls originate?

Across the country, other campaigns were getting similar reports: fake Liberals calls. The call display often showed a North Dakota telephone number — 701-509-8703 — which Internet message boards show is often used for fraudulent credit card scams.

Canadians are just beginning to wake up to the fact that the 2011 election was quite possibly stolen. What is to be done? Elections Canada was too indolent to move on numerous reports of fraud last May—“inaccuracies can occur,” forsooth!—and the Commissioner of Canada Elections just couldn’t be bothered to get off the couch:

Commissioner William Corbett appeared unworried that massive electoral mischief had occurred.

In a heavily redacted memo dated May 16, 2011, Corbett wrote: “There was no conduct reported that would bring into question the election result overall or the result in a particular riding. Although misconduct was reported in several ridings, there is no complaint that it affected the final result. There is some speculation in the media that the dirty tricks may have affected the result in some close contests.”

At the same time, Corbett acknowledges that “the investigation of complaints regarding web-based conduct - particularly third-party conduct - is difficult, time consuming and may be inconclusive. The same applies to telephone communications that flow through intermediaries and foreign call centres. Consequently, the dirty tricks complaints which definitely occurred may not be resolvable, if the conduct is illegal under the Act.”

Gosh, it was so much work. Well, I’d say it’s high time to get cracking now.

UPDATE: The US connection. And more campus knavery, from Alison. Blogger Pale of A Creative Revolution, meanwhile, takes us down memory lane. This stuff was all known during the election, if not the sheer breathtaking sweep of it.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on February 24, 2012 10:56 PM.

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