We’ve all received robo-calls.
Usually they come at the most inconvenient times, while preparing or eating dinner, or just heading out the door for the evening.
We’re usually pitched an opportunity to have surplus clothing picked up, get our carpets cleaned or save a life by donating to some sort of worthy cause.
But the robo-calls New Democrats and Liberals are alleging the Conservative party made during their successful 2011 election campaign are much more insidious.
They say the robo-calls to voters in ridings across Canada directed them to incorrect polling stations, perhaps frustrating their attempt to cast their ballot and influencing the election’s results.
An economist at Simon Fraser University, Anke Kessler, says that’s entirely possible.
Kessler crunched the numbers and in a draft discussion paper published on her website, she says as many as 2,500 voters in ridings targeted by the robo-calls may not have reached their proper polling station to cast their vote.
In five of those ridings that was enough to secure victory for the Tory candidate over their Liberal and NDP opponents.
Kessler concludes her analysis “suggests that any alleged robo-calling had a statistically significant impact on voter turnout and election results.”
While shady ethics and playing fast and loose with the truth are expected elements of any election campaign, outright deception to dissuade voters from exercising their democratic choice crosses a dangerous line.
It is particularly ironic that this investigation erupts at a time when the Conservative government is demanding easier access for police to phone and Internet records of suspected criminals.
In our electronic age, there are few secrets that can’t be uncovered.
As the robo-call scandal unfolds, the Conservatives may yet fall upon their own sword.