9 things to know about voting under the new elections act
You don't need photo ID, but make sure you have something with your address on it
The government's proposed fair elections act will make it harder for some people to vote, by eliminating vouching and the use of voter information cards as ID.
If some suggested amendments to the bill are accepted, parts of the voting process may become easier.
If Bill C-23 doesn't change, here's what a voter needs to know when he or she enters a polling station in 2015, the scheduled date of the next federal election.
1) Do you need to have photo ID?
However, most people use their driver's licence, which is government-issued and has a photo and an address. Elections Canada says 85 per cent of voters use this method and zip through the voting process in three to five minutes.
2) What do you need, if you don't have a driver's licence?
You need two pieces of ID, both of which must have your name and one of which must also have your address. Elections Canada has a list of 39 different kinds of ID that are acceptable. A Senate committee has suggested the new bill be amended to allow electronic versions of utility bills as ID rather than the original hard copies currently required.
3) If you're on the voters list, do you still need to show ID?
The voters list used on election day is drawn up from a master list which Elections Canada continually updates, using information from income tax returns, driver's licence applications, motor vehicle registrations, and provincial statistics data and voters lists.
4) What if you're not on the voters list, but have the required ID?
You can register to vote at the polling station by swearing an oath and signing a form attesting to your name, age, address and citizenship.
5) Do you have to prove citizenship?
In order to exercise your constitutional right to vote, you must be over 18, be a resident of the polling division you're voting in and be a Canadian citizen. But you don't have to produce a birth certificate or passport. Elections Canada will take your word that you're a citizen.
However, the deputy returning officer at your poll has the power to challenge your citizenship. In that case, you be will asked to swear an oath attesting you are a Canadian citizen in order to obtain a ballot.
6) What if you're a senior in a home, a resident of a homeless shelter, or an aboriginal living on a reserve and you have no ID with an address?
You can ask the administrator of the institution or reserve to write a letter of attestation that you live there, but only if the administrator is willing to do it. A Senate committee amendment suggests the new bill should mandate that the letters be provided, if requested.
7) What if your address is simply RR 1 or a postal box, and your ID does not contain a unique physical address with a street name and number within the electoral boundary?
If you are on the voters list you can vote, but your ID must match the information on the list. The returning officer at the poll has tools to geolocate where you live. All rural addresses and postal boxes are assigned street addresses so that emergency services can find you.
If you're not on the list you can register on the spot with your ID, and, again, you will be located.
Well before you set off for the polling station, you can check online with Elections Canada by typing in your postal code and name to see if you are on the voters list.
You will be asked for more information on later pages to protect your privacy and that of others on the list. This list is not open to the scrutiny of the public.
8) Can you vote if Elections Canada tells you someone with the same name and address as yours has already voted?
You can vote if you have ID and if you swear a written oath on a form that outlines the penalties for voter fraud.
9) What if you have no ID because your purse or wallet has been stolen, or you've just moved and have no utility bill, mortgage, lease, moving bill or anything proving your address?
You may be out of luck, and if you're walking into the polling station on election day you won't be able to vote.
In past elections, a parent or friend who lives in the same polling division could vouch for you — that is, swear an oath that you are who you say you are and live where you say you live. However, vouching is banned in the proposed legislation.
Defenders of the fair elections act say people should make an effort to obtain a cellphone bill, or get some notarized ID with the new address on it.
The new legislation, currently before the Commons and the Senate, puts the onus on the voter to make sure he or she is qualified to vote by putting in some work before heading to the ballot box.
But those efforts, defined by some as "jumping through hoops," may be time-consuming, onerous and subject to the capriciousness of officials. Some voters, at least for one election cycle, just might have to resign themselves to not voting.