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Why is Electoral Voter Vouching Under the Government Axe?

April 21, 2014
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Another barrier to your legal rights…

Voting is the right of every Canadian of majority age, even if you don’t have any personal identification. If that happens, by accident or by design, Elections Canada will accept a piece of ‘living’ identification in the form of a fellow voter who is personally known to you. This person will vouch for your identity. Bill C-23 seeks to eliminate this option for Canadians, claiming the move will eliminate fraud. In all actuality, the move erects another barrier to our electoral process.

Bill C-23 is currently under heated debate in Parliament for some of the contradictory aspects that will be introduced if the bill passes its second reading and becomes law. The main goal of the 252 page bill is to stop fraud associated with the electoral process, all the way from large donations down to the identification that voters present in order to validate their legitimacy. Therein lies the problem.

According to Dennis Bevington (NDP, Western Arctic – NT) in the official transcript of the House debate on Bill C-23, last election, 100,000 voters relied on vouching in order to cast their vote. While the number sounds significant, Mr. Bevington assures the house that vouching accounts for an average of 350 votes per riding. This is significant if you’re a blind voter who now faces a new barrier to the process, but not significant from a tallying, fraud, or procedural point of view.

As CTV News states, “Currently, voters who don’t have one of the approved pieces of identification can have someone vouch for their identity at the polls. Bill C-23 would end that practice. Critics say the move will disenfranchise aboriginals, seniors, students and low-income Canadians, among other groups, who may not meet the ID requirements. The Conservative government has been accused of using Bill C-23 to gain an unfair advantage in the 2015 federal election.”

Diane Bergeron, National Director, Government Relations and Advocacy for CNIB states that ending voter vouching through Bill C-23 without putting other measures in place to overcome barriers will make blind and partially sighted voters more vulnerable. She states that, ““The appropriate solution to this problem is to make available alternate voting processes such as voting by phone by internet or other accessible electronic means.” Despite this completely reasonable request and the availability of high quality internet access available to the public, the architect of Bill C-23 chooses to concentrate the bill’s authority on reactive solutions to governmental problems and cites a (very low) instance of fraud as reason for axing voter vouching.

Despite ongoing feedback from disability advocacy groups such as CNIB, bill C-23 actually makes it harder for people with disabilities to vote. The Chronicle Herald states that, “Disability advocates say disabled Canadians face barriers to the electoral system such as a lack of braille, large print, plain language information and audio for the hearing impaired.

“The printed ballot is inaccessible to some voters,” said Bob Brown of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. “For example, voters with vision impairments cannot independently verify if a printed ballot is correctly marked.”

Pierre Poilievre, Minister of Democratic Reform strongly defend his Bill C-23 stating that the election reforms are fair and will help eliminate voter fraud. If the bill becomes law, Canadians wishing to vote must produce one of 25 types of identification cards and 13 broad options for original documents bearing name and address of the voter – no excuses or exceptions.

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