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Do you need ID to vote in Alberta's election? Not if you're on the list — it's an 'honour system'

Municipal, provincial and federal elections all operate under different rules, which can make it a little confusing when, for each, you're usually heading to the polls only once every four years.

Voter fraud hasn't been an issue in the past, but election officials remain vigilant

If Albertans are registered to vote in the election, they don't need to show ID. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Municipal, provincial and federal elections all operate under different rules, which can make it a little confusing when, for each, you're usually heading to the polls only once every four years.

One thing some first-time or forgetful voters might not realize as they head to the polls to cast their ballots in Alberta's 2019 provincial election is that as long as you're registered to vote, you don't need to show ID.

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"If you're a registered voter and your name's on the voters list … all you need to do is show up and give your name and address," said Drew Westwater, Alberta's deputy chief electoral officer. "They'll give you a ballot."

Because the advanced polls are being organized through a computer-based system, things will go more smoothly for registered voters who bring their voter cards or driver's licence along, Westwater said.

Those can be scanned to help poll clerks quickly find a voter's name on the list. 

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But on April 16, election day, it'll be done the old-fashioned way, so clerks will look up voters' names in a paper book at the polling station in their riding.

Bring ID just in case

The only time you need ID is if you're not registered (so you might want to bring it along in case your name's not on the list). Elections Alberta has a list of accepted ID on its website. You either need one piece of government-issued photo ID, or two pieces of ID from the authorized list to register.

"As an unregistered voter, you have to bring authorized identification with you so you can get added to the list before you can get a ballot," Westwater said.

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Westwater said the system of not requiring ID for registered voters is the same that's been used since Alberta was first formed after confederation. 

"The legislature debated this when they were looking at revisions to the legislation [in 2017]," Westwater said.

"They felt the honour system has worked well in Alberta in the past, and it's not been an issue or a problem, and therefore they were content to remain with what we have currently."

What about voter fraud?

Under Alberta's Election Act, a person who votes fraudulently can be fined up to $50,000 and/or imprisoned for up to two years.

Westwater said he's heard more people say they're concerned about voter fraud, but in previous elections there haven't been cases of voter fraud due to malicious intent.

"I can tell you some people did vote more than once in previous elections," Westwater said, noting those were scenarios were seniors had gotten confused and voted once in the advance poll and then again on election day.

"We haven't charged or prosecuted them for that because it was an honest mistake."

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Nobody has been charged with voter fraud in the past four or five elections, he said.

After every election, the process is reviewed and studied for any irregular or improper voting, and recommendations are made in a report to the legislature.

"We've never run into a problem of voter fraud … but if it does occur, we'll certainly enforce it."

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With files from Dave Gilson

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