Calgary's homeless voters queue as some turned away at Drop-In Centre

At least two people were prevented from voting at a mobile polling station at Calgary's Drop-In and Rehab Centre — believed to be the first specifically set up for the homeless in Canada — after changes to the Fair Elections Act.

At least 2 voters turned away at mobile polling station aimed at homeless

On a daily basis, roughly 1,200 people call Calgary's Drop-In and Rehab Centre home and the mobile polling station gave them a chance to cast their ballot in the building. (CBC)

At least two people were prevented from voting at a mobile polling station at Calgary's Drop-In and Rehab Centre — believed to be the first specifically set up for the homeless in Canada — after changes to the Fair Elections Act.

In a two-hour period while CBC News was on site, both Christine Goodrider and Mike Hunt were turned away for having insufficient identification. They both had letters from the Drop-In and Rehab Centre stating that the homeless shelter served as their permanent address, but neither of them had a second piece of identification. 

Perry Wilson says he was always Conservative, but this time he held his nose and voted for change. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

The Fair Elections Act that became law earlier this year disallowed the practice of vouching, something that was used by 120,000 people in the 2011 federal election. The elimination of vouching meant that the letters carried by Hunt and Goodrider were no longer sufficient to vote Monday. 

Hunt called himself a "nonvoter" Tuesday and said, "This is a sham."

"I was rejected because I only had the validated piece of paper from the staff at the [Drop-In Centre] that confirmed who I was, that was the same piece of paper that I used to vote in the provincial election. Seemed to be good enough for them."

Hunt said, had he been able, he would have cast his ballot for Jillian Ratti, the NDP candidate in the Calgary Centre riding. Goodrider said she would have voted for Kent Hehr, the Liberal candidate. 

"A year ago, I was making $80,000 a year. Now I'm penniless, I don't have ID and I can't vote," Hunt said. 

Lineup at the station

In the first hour and a half the polling station was open, at least 60 people cast their ballot at the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre, the shelter staff estimate. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

Monday was the first time that Calgary's Drop-In Centre hosted a federal election mobile polling station and the staff there believe it is the first of its kind nationally, and there was a lineup at times.

"I think it's wonderful that we have a polling station here but at the exact same time it's clear: we have to do more. We're unfortunately still turning people away that want to share their voice but can't because we're not listening," said Jordan Hamilton, the manager of external relations at the centre. 

"Something that I firmly believe is that voting is a right and we have a responsibility to remove all these barriers to vote. The majority of our clients do not have identification and I think we need to respect that."

A pilot project success

Hamilton was impressed by the turnout at the pilot project polling station. The station opened at 7:30 a.m. with a line at the door and he said by 9 a.m. at least 60 people had cast their ballots. 

"It may not seem like an incredible barrier to walk 10 blocks but for a lot of our clients, because of mobility challenges, they just can't do it," Hamilton said.

Erica Kelly voted at that polling station Monday and she said it was a very important initiative. 

"We have a right to our opinion too," she said. 

Daniel Mechefske, 32, voted for the very first time at the polling station and said he likely wouldn't have bothered if it hadn't been right in the centre. 

Gordon Kennedy voted for Kent Hehr and said he thought the polling station at the centre was a great idea. 

"I don't know what the percentage is of people that don't vote but there's a lot in homeless shelters that don't, I know that. But I'm sure that many more did this year because of this," Kennedy said.

Kevin Weaver was also one of the voters that turned out at the Calgary Centre polling station and said, "I think it's great. At least someone is recognizing that it is an actual address for some folks."


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