British Columbia

Voter ID laws challenged in B.C. high court

The B.C. Court of Appeal will hear a challenge this week of federal voting laws that require all voters to show identification and provide proof of residence

The B.C. Court of Appeal will hear a challenge this week of federal voting laws that require all voters to show identification and provide proof of residence.

The 2007 law says those without the required ID must have another voter with the proper identification who is registered in the same polling division vouch for them before they can vote.

The law was upheld in a May 2010 B.C. Supreme Court case in which the judge found that, although it is inconsistent with the electoral rights guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the law constitutes a reasonable limit on those rights and is justifiable.

The case, officially known as Henry v. Canada, was brought by three B.C. residents, two of whom have been homeless in the past. The third was an elderly woman who believed that all she had to present at the polling station when voting in the 2008 federal election was the voter information card mailed to her by Elections Canada. She was denied a ballot when she could not produce other ID.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is an intervener in the case and will argue in favour of the plaintiffs challenging the law.

"These voter ID laws may deny some of the most vulnerable in our society from making their mark at the polls on election day, such as homeless and transient persons with no fixed address, senior citizens, new citizens, and citizens living in rural and remote communities," the BCCLA said in a release Sunday.

"Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest that Canada has a problem with voter fraud to require changes to the law."

The association says an individual who has no driver’s licence and who has recently moved to a new rental residence may not be able to provide the necessary ID. Such a person may not know anyone who is registered in the same polling district to vouch for him or her.

"Under the old law, this person would be able to vote provided he or she was on the list of electors. Under the new law, this person would be denied a ballot," the BCCLA said.

Arguments are expected to be heard in the case Monday through Wednesday.

The appeal court can often take months to issue rulings in cases where no urgent decision is required. The next federal election is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 19, 2015.