Gregory Beatty’s article on aboriginal voting in federal elections (Prairie Dog, June 11) has some factual errors that need to be corrected, as they will seriously mislead aboriginal voters.
Beatty writes: “Vouching, where a neighbour or acquaintance can attest to a person’s identity before they vote, is no longer an option. The Elections Canada voter information card and Indian status card won’t do either. Instead, voters will be required to produce a piece of government-approved ID with their address on it. (See electionscanada.ca for details.)”
In reality, vouching remains, as a result of an immense amount of public pressure, but the person whose street address (not identity) is being vouched for now needs two pieces of ID — for example a treaty card, a student card , health card, or any two from the lengthy list of acceptable personal IDs which are available from Elections Canada’s website.
As before, a voucher can only assist one person, which is, of course, a serious handicap as several in the same household might need vouching about their address. An Indian status card has not been acceptable by itself since the Harper government introduced very stringent voter ID requirements back in 2007. The current so-called Fair Elections Act makes things even worse, and is meant to discourage groups not favoured by the Conservatives — aboriginals, young people, particularly students, the working and unemployed poor — from voting.
A voter information card, likewise, has not been accepted as voter ID for eight years, but only as a supportive document (to go with other personal ID) to provide the required street address — that option has now been completely removed.
People and organizations actively working to encourage voting must know the requirements and be prepared to help people register for voting and then obtain the right kind of ID, which is a document with a name and street address (the latter being more crucial than, for instance, a photo). A Saskatchewan ID card with a photo and street address would be a gold standard for all who don’t have the number one ID card (a driver’s licence). SGI can provide the Saskatchewan ID card at a low cost, with seniors getting it free.
GREG BEATTY RESPONDS: Thanks for the clarification. I think technically vouching has been discontinued. It’s been replaced by attestation that allows someone with approved ID who is registered at the same polling station as you to attest to your address once you have provided sufficient ID to identify yourself.
As you point out, First Nations voters aren’t the only group affected by the new requirements: the elderly, students and the homeless could also face additional challenges in voting.
As you also point out, First Nations people can use their status cards to help vote in two ways. First, if you present the card along with another piece of approved ID that has your name and address on it, you can then vote. Second, you can use the card with a second piece of ID without your address on it to identify yourself, and that would permit someone who meets Election Canada’s standard (proper ID, registered at the same polling station) to attest to your residence, allowing you to vote.
On July 17, Ontario Superior Court Justice David Stinson rejected a challenge to the new rules mounted by the Canadian Federation of Students and Council of Canadians who argued that they amounted to voter suppression and would potentially disenfranchise 250,000 Canadians. So if people intend to vote in the October federal election, they need to ensure they have the right ID.
To find a list of government-approved ID, Google “Elections Canada” and “Voter ID”.
WE STILL PRINT READER LETTERS? Sure, why not. E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. They shouldn’t be more than 300 words, ha ha, like you’re going to keep it short just because Prairie Dog has a “rule”.