Elections Canada eases northern voters' ID concerns
Federal election officials assured voters in remote communities, particularly those in Canada's North, that they won't be so tightly bound by new voting rules that some worried could stop people from casting their ballots in the Oct. 14 federal election.
Some leaders and candidates in the North recently raised concerns about the rules, which require photo identification from voters at polling booths — even though many people in smaller, remote communities do not have photo ID cards.
The new voter identification requirements, which came into force last year, also restrict the number of people that voters can "vouch" for in lieu of them presenting photo ID.
But Elections Canada spokesman John Enright told CBC News that chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand has granted polling officials the power to show leniency in remote communities.
Enright later told CBC News that he had meant to say polling officials should exercise "discretion," rather than "leniency."
"We know that ID is a challenge, so that's why the CEO has given this instruction to his poll officials — in the North, particularly — to try to, as much as possible, work with electors," Enright said Tuesday.
"If the poll official feels that that information is consistent with what is on the list, the elector will be permitted to vote."
For those who don't have photo ID, Enright said voters can bring two pieces of other identification, like a health card, a utility bill or a fishing licence.
Both pieces should show the voter's name, and one of them should also have the voter's address on it.
Enright said that voters who meet the identification requirements can then vouch for another person who does not have ID.
Under the new requirements, voters can vouch for only one other person. They could vouch for multiple people in the past.
Local leaders in aboriginal communities can also help voters without proper ID, Enright said.
"The band chiefs are authorized to issue letters of attestation, which is essentially a form saying that the chief attests to the identity of an individual," he said.
"Those attestations will be accepted as identification at the polls as well."
The new voter ID requirements, which were brought in to curb voter fraud, worried some northern leaders and elders who say they've never needed government-issued ID because everyone knows who they are in the community.