Robocalls: Elections Canada Warned Parties Not To Call Voters With Polling Locations

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OTTAWA - The Conservative party asked for the location of all polling stations and then contacted voters about where to find them during last year's federal campaign, despite a request they not do so by Elections Canada for fear of muddying the election-day waters.

It's just the latest wrinkle in an evolving investigation into evidence that someone impersonated an Elections Canada official in order to misdirect voters to the wrong polling stations.

Elections Canada is investigating clear evidence of fraudulent calls in Guelph, Ont., amid an avalanche of unverified complaints of similar fake calls across the country.

Elections Canada confirms the Conservative party requested a list of all polling stations before the federal vote last May 2, and that as a result the elections watchdog provided the list to all parties.

In its statutory report following the 2011 campaign, released last August, Elections Canada highlighted the incident in a separate box.

"Because a polling site can be replaced by another at the last minute, and to ensure that electors always have access to the most accurate information regarding their location, Elections Canada indicated to political parties that the list supplied should only be used for internal purposes and that parties should not direct electors to polling sites," said the report.

All parties were instructed to tell voters to check Elections Canada's website or their voter information card for poll locations "to prevent electors from being directed to incorrect polling sites."

"Some political parties did not comply with this request," said the report.

Elections Canada could not immediately say Monday which parties disregarded its advice.

But the Conservatives have been readily acknowledging for a week that they contacted party supporters by phone with information on poll locations.

"Elections Canada has now confirmed that at least 127 late polling station changes were made during the recent election, affecting as many as 1,000 polls," Dean Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told the House of Commons last Monday.

"We contacted our supporters to make them aware of those polling station changes so they could cast their votes."

Del Mastro again repeated the assertion Monday.

Elections Canada says 127 polling stations out of 15,262 across Canada moved locations during the campaign period. The list shows polls moving in 65 of Canada's 308 ridings.

A spokesman for the Conservative party, Fred Delorey, said in an email that "it's our job as a political party to get our supporters out to vote."

Delorey did not directly address why the party ignored Elections Canada's request that it not contact voters about poll locations.

"While calling Conservative supporters and encouraging them to vote we wanted to make sure they knew where to go," he wrote in response.

The growing scandal over allegations of voter suppression and impersonating Elections Canada officials has had the governing Conservatives on the defensive for almost two weeks, but they have consistently maintained that they did nothing wrong while advising their supporters where to vote.

"The Conservative party can say absolutely, definitively, that it has no role in any of this," Harper told the Commons last week.

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