Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Electoral misconduct in Churchill Saskatchewan? Probably not.

The riding of Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River in northern Saskatchewan is in the news over its election night results, which were:
Gary Merasty (LIB) 10237 (41.46%)
Jeremy Harrison (CON) 10131 (41.03%)
Anita Jackson (NDP) 3788 (15.34%)
John A. McDonald (GRN) 535 (2.17%)
The morning after the election Harrison, the Conservative incumbant, was outraged that he lost the riding when the last poll reported. Here's the relevant clip from the story in the Regina Leader-Post
Defeated Conservative MP Jeremy Harrison is alleging the Liberals used dirty tricks to steal the election Monday night in the northern riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, a claim strongly denied by victor Gary Merasty. [snip]

Harrison, the only Saskatchewan incumbent to be defeated, is calling for an investigation and a new election.[snip]

The last poll of the night to report -- from the Ahtahkakoop First Nation -- gave Merasty the win.

Harrison, who was first elected in 2004, said the Conservatives are suspicious about voter turnout levels that seemed to reach 100 per cent on some First Nations in the riding.
(See also the Free Dominion thread or SDA for an extra helping of gracelessness, with more than a hint of racism.)

But what about the Ahtahkakoop poll? Let's look at what happened there last time. (You can download the poll-by-poll results for yourself here):
Poll Number: 105
Poll Name: Ahtahkakoop
Earl Cook (NDP) 5
Al Ducharme (Lib) 113
Marcella Gall (Green) 1
Jeremy Harrison (Con) 1
Rick Laliberte (Ind) 22
Rejected Ballots 0
Total Vote 142
Electors 458
So, what does this tell us? In the last election, only 1 voter out of 142 voted Conservative. 143 voters supported a Liberal (Ducharme) or ex-Liberal (Laliberte). The voter-turnout was low 31%.

This time, according to the Leader-Post, voter turn-out was much higher, presumably something in the order of 66%, and the vote went all-Liberal (unsurprising given the fact that there was no vote splitting with Laliberte).

Why the increase in turnout? Again no real surprise. The last election was held in mid-summer, when many in northern Saskatchewan are on the land. In mid-winter, they will be home.

That hypothesis can probably be confirmed if we look at the 2000 results:
poll. no. 101
poll name Shell Lake
Laliberte (Lib) 382
Funk (NDP) 14
Rogers (PC) 1
Peterson (CA) 0
Votes cast: 398
Eligible voters: 534
Turnout 74.5%
So, is there a story here? Probably not. At least as far as the Shell Lake/Ahtahkakoop poll goes.

(The interesting side story is to note that Shell Lake's lone PC voter from 2000 seems to have migrated to the Conservatives in 2004. I wonder how s/he voted this time?)

(Another piece of trivia: I went fishing on Shell Lake in '73 or '74.)

Update Other news stories have been filed by the G&M, CBC, CBC Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Star Phoenix. Most of these emphasize other aspects of Harrison's allegations rather than the Ahtahkakoop poll, which as I explain above does not seem anomalous.

[edited out snears about Conservatives being sore winners; added data from 2000]

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