Monday, September 8, 2008

Ignoring voters when choosing election dates

September/October time is a difficult time of year balancing between religious observance and the demands of being a member of society. Over the course of just over 3 weeks there are a total of 7 religious holy days. This particular year all 7 days fall on weekdays. These days make it difficult to participate in political discourse, especially during election time.

When the Ontario government brought in fixed election dates they decided to go with early October. Concerns of the Jewish community were completely ignored. Last year, the very first fixed term election date had to be moved to accommodate the Jewish calendar. Despite knowing about the problem 4 years in advance the Ontario government had to make amendments to the original legislation to allow the date to be moved for religious accommodation.

On Sunday the Stephen Harper called an election for October 14th. Under federal law elections must be held on a Monday. The Chief Electoral Officer has the ability to push the election off until the Tuesday or the following week. As October 13th is Thanksgiving the date was pushed off to the Tuesday. It also happens to be a Jewish Holiday. Pushing the election off to the following week would have put it on October 20th, which is the eve of a Jewish holiday. This means all of the religious restrictions would kick in on sundown of that day.

When planning election strategy Stephan Harper was well aware of this conflict. As he did not want to have the results of the September 8th by-elections, he would not want to call an election any later than he did. If he called the election a week earlier it would have placed the election on October 6th which would have been fine for everyone. The problem was it meant calling an election on labour day weekend. He could have made the election campaign longer and set the date for October 27th. Long election campaigns tend to wear on voters patients. This would not have been a desirable solution.

Jewish voters will still have the opportunity to vote in advance polls or by proxy. Harper has strategic decided that alienating one community was worth the price of getting the perfectly timed election. It remains to be seen if the people he has alienated will have any affect on the election out come. Keep in mind B'nai Brith condemned the hand chosen by Dion, Liberal candidate in during the Outremont by-election. That riding went NDP after being the safest Liberal seat in the country.

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