Elections Canada warns voters over false poll calls

Voters in ridings across the country are being warned not to trust calls telling them to go to different polling stations, according to Elections Canada.

Voters in ridings across Canada are being warned not to trust calls telling them to go to different polling stations, according to Elections Canada.

Elections Canada has had reports from several ridings from voters in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia who claim to have been given false information that directed them to the wrong place to vote.

The campaign of Frank Valeriote, the Liberal candidate in Guelph, issued a statement on Monday saying it has received calls from citizens claiming they received calls from Elections Canada or the riding's Conservative candidate saying the polling station has changed.

The campaign has complained to Elections Canada and the Guelph police.

"This is clearly illegal and has not being conducted or sanctioned by Frank Valeriote or anyone in his campaign," said the statement from the Valeriote campaign.

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Ben Grossman said he voted in Guelph at 9:30 a.m. on Monday and when he arrived at his home 30 minutes later, there was a voice mail message from a blocked number telling him the polling station had moved across the city. He said he reported the call to Elections Canada.

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Elections Canada is reporting that it has received more than 100 complaints from Kitchener-Waterloo and the Guelph areas. Another dozen complaints were fielded in the Ottawa area.

Kathy Mahoney received a call in the Ottawa area that claimed to be from Elections Canada.

"[The call said] due to higher than normal voter turnout, they were changing our poll station. Then it got maybe a little staticy or garbley. You couldn't hear where the polling station was. And then it left a 1-800 number to call if you had any questions," said Mahoney, who is married to Richard Mahoney, a Liberal candidate in recent elections.

Mahoney tried calling the 1-800 number but there was no response. She said her phone's caller identification feature said the number carried a 450 number, which is from suburban Montreal.

The fictitious phone calls are also plaguing voters on the West Coast.

Elections Canada has received complaints from voters in British Columbia over calls offering false information.

Susan Friend, an Elections Canada official, said the agency never calls voters directly to warn them that polling stations have moved.

"Elections Canada would like to warn voters to disregard any phone calls you have where you are being told to go to a different polling station," Friend said.

The Canada Elections Act says it is prohibited to "wilfully prevent or endeavour to prevent an elector from voting at an election." If a person is guilty of contravening the act, they could face a fine or jail time.

Names cross off voting lists

A different type of voting problem was experienced by several Montreal voters.

When Robin Warren showed up to vote on Monday, she said her name had been crossed off the voter list.

She had to sign an affidavit swearing she had not voted already.

While Warren was at the polling station, she said another woman who lives in the same apartment complex had an identical problem.

"On my way back home after we dealt with all this I ran into another group of ladies outside and all their names were crossed off the list, and they had to go through the same thing of signing affidavits. There's something not right here. There's too many people in one building," Warren said.

Warren said she called Elections Canada to complain but she said the elections agency called the situation an irregularity.

Earlier concerns over prank calls

A spokesman for Liberal Anita Neville, who's running for re-election in Winnipeg-South Centre, said they started getting calls from voters on Saturday asking whether their polling stations had changed.

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Some reports have said voters are getting phone calls telling them their polling station has changed, but Francine Bastien, an Elections Canada official, wouldn't say precisely how people are getting the false information.

"We just want to make sure that both the media and the voters know that there have not been any changes in the voting [locations] ... and that the documents they receive from Elections Canada [and] the Elections Canada website is the accurate information they should trust in order to vote tomorrow," Bastien said.

"I don't know the details exactly but I understand they were getting information to the effect that they should vote in different locations, sometimes being referred to locations that were an hour away from their residence."

Bastien said she can't yet address whether the election agency will investigate the false information.