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Tales From The Dump: Free rides and beer on election day? Used to be

Elections can come and go but the memories can linger on.
A couple turkey decoys I found at the dump and decided this looked interesting. Hey you never know when a flock of real turkeys may show up. Walt Humphries photo

Elections can come and go but the memories can linger on.

Years ago, when Yellowknife was a much smaller place, some of the people running for office would offer to drive potential voters to the polls. Since most elections in the North seem to fall in the cold and snowy months, this was certainly a nice thing for them to do. All you had to do was phone a number given out and a vehicle would come by to pick you up. Often it was driven by the person running. They would give you a ride to the polls, wait for you to vote and then give you a ride back home.

I remember one election day, in the afternoon after I had voted, I went over to the Miners’ Mess for a coffee. One of the candidates came in for a coffee and to take a break. He had been driving people to and from the polls all day. He was a little disgruntled. He mumbled that over half the people he gave rides to would ask if they could stop at a store to get a couple of things they needed before they went to vote and got a ride home.

He said he felt more like a cab driver than a politician and what really irked him was he had no way of knowing if the free rides voted for him or not. He claimed that during the day, he saw one old timer getting a ride and doing errands from all three of the candidates running. That certainly got a chuckle.

Over the years, the free rides to the polls seem to have mostly disappeared. Maybe because gas is getting much more expensive, liability issues or it could be considered an incentive to vote for certain people.

Years ago, all the drinking establishments and liquor stores would be closed during the vote to ensure people weren’t persuaded to vote a certain way because of a free drink. If you read some of the accounts of early elections in Upper and Lower Canada, they certainly sound more like drunken parties than sober-second-thought ones. One account I read about, an election day turned into a major brawl and fight as the followers of one candidate tried to stop the voters from another candidate from getting to the polling stations to vote.

They had taken political debate to a whole new level, and some would-be voters ended up in the hospital.

In 2006, the Ontario government mailed out voter cards to 90,000 people who had passed away in the last few years because the old voters list had not been adjusted with the death records. That meant a whole lot of people recently departed were legally entitled to come back and cast their ballot. Unfortunately, many of the families who got the cards were more shocked than amused.

However, if you read up on history, people who are dead and buried have a long history of voting during elections. This happened in a time before picture ID’s, driver’s licenses, and computers. It seemed to happen mostly in rural areas. Some not-so-savoury politicians or campaign managers would hire someone to go to the polls and impersonate or proxy vote for the departed. They would keep doing this repeatedly until the polls closed. All because one candidate wanted to win so badly — he was literally buying votes.

If you ever try to do a little research on elections around the world, some countries have some rather interesting stories on election shenanigans. One favourite of mine was where in a local election almost twice as many people voted as compared to the number of people who resided there. Now that is enthusiasm and more than a little shady.

So, enjoy the election and get out and vote. Seeing democracy in action is a wondrous thing. Democracy is something a lot of men, women and children have fought for over the years so exercise the right to vote since many made sacrifices for this right.

This Saturday is Remembrance Day. Lest We Forget.