This Winnipeg woman doesn't have ID — here's how she can still vote

Allison Flemming constantly has her stuff stolen living on Flora Avenue, including her ID. She can't get new documents in time for the election, but she still has one more option to cast a ballot.

The vouching policy at the polls allowed 120,000 Canadians to vote in 2011 without ID

Allison Flemming had her ID stolen from her three times in the past month. She's considering using vouching to be able to vote in the federal election. (Gary Solilak/CBC News)

It's been a rough few weeks for Allison Flemming.

Her ID and bank card was stolen last month, and the thief maxed out her account, leaving her with $23. She couldn't pay her Hydro bill since all her money was stolen, and she almost had her power shut off. Because of that, she and her two kids almost had to spend the night in a shelter.

Voting is the last thing on her mind. 

"To be honest, I felt like I was going to cry. I felt scared, I felt hopeless," she said.

"But then, on the other hand, when I thought about all the things I was going through...maybe voting should be on top of our minds, too. Because maybe someone could make a difference," she said.

"Maybe the candidates should get to know the North End and realize we matter too, right?"

Flemming lives in Poll 135, a neighbourhood with one of the lowest voter turnouts in the 2015 federal election. She wants to vote to make her area better, but without ID, she'll need to act fast.

Poll 135 is one of the Winnipeg North neighbourhoods with the lowest voter turnout in the 2015 federal election. (CBC)

3 month wait for birth certificate

Citizens' Bridge, just a few blocks away from Flemming's house on Flora Avenue, helps low-income people access basic ID needs. The resource centre is under the North End Community Renewal Corporation umbrella. 

The staff there say they see people come in all the time after their ID has been stolen, misplaced or destroyed by someone else.

"We work with a lot of people who are homeless or in transition, and if they don't have secure mailboxes, it is too easy for things to go missing," said Eva Stewart, a case worker with Citizen's Bridge.

"People will lose EIA cheques, never mind anything that has a birth certificate or photo ID in it."

Allison Flemming fills in forms to apply for a birth certificate at Citizens' Bridge. (Gary Solilak/CBC News)

Lost and stolen IDs are so common, that the centre is holding about 1,000 IDs stored in secure vaults as part of their ID storage program. Folks can come and access their own IDs for whatever they need, like for voting.

Though Flemming applied for a birth certificate through Citizen's Bridge earlier this week, she still won't get her ID in time. In Manitoba, the average wait time is three months.

"No matter which province you're born in, it would be very hard to get a birth certificate in time for the election, unless you paid the rush fee," said Stewart.

"In Manitoba, we could do a rush fee for $30, and it's usually here in five business days."

Eva Stewart is a case worker with Citizens' Bridge, an organization that helps low-income people access basic identification needs. (Gary Solilak/CBC News)

Vouching an option

Flemming can't afford the rush fee since she lives off her social assistance, so she won't have any government-issued ID in time for Oct. 21. 

She has two options left. 

First, she could use two documents that have her name and current address on them. Secondly, she could use vouching, a reinstated policy as of this federal election.

Here's how it works:

  1. You bring someone you know who is assigned to the same polling station as you.
  2. You declare your name and address in writing.
  3. Your neighbour shows their valid ID, and vouches that your identity is real.
  4. You get to vote without ID.

Vouching wasn't offered during the 2015 election because the Conservatives changed the Elections Act in 2014, and got rid of it.

Last year the Liberals made their own changes to the Act, and brought vouching back. In 2011, about 120,000 people used vouching in order to vote, which is less than one per cent of voters.

Flemming says she'd like to vote using vouching, but she's still unsure of who the candidates are and what they stand for.

"I'd like to know what's going on in the world," she said.

"I think everyone has a right to vote and everyone should vote. I mean, everybody matters, right?"

Winnipeg North Candidates

  • Kevin Lamoureux for the Liberal party.
  • Jordyn Ham for the Conservatives.
  • Kyle Mason for the NDP.
  • Sai Shanthanand Rajagopal for the Greens.
  • Victor Ong for the People's Party of Canada.
  • Henry Hizon for the Christian Heritage Party of Canada.
  • Andrew Taylor for the Communist Party of Canada.
  • Kathy Doyle as an Independent.

This is part of a series of stories titled Operation Vote that CBC Manitoba will be doing about this polling area and why it has such low voter turnout. We'll explore what it would take for some non-voters to mark an X on the federal election ballot.

CBC Manitoba is hosting an Operation Vote block party with free hot dog supper on Thursday, Oct. 17 from 4:30 - 7 p.m. in the heart of Winnipeg's North End at Powers-Selkirk Park South at 470 A Selkirk, across the street from the Bell Tower. Come meet the candidates from the four main parties in your riding as CBC's afternoon radio show Up To Speed and CBC News Winnipeg at 6 happen live on location.  


  • An earlier version of this story identified the Communist Party of Canada's candidate as Taylor Andrew. In fact, the candidate is Andrew Taylor.
    Oct 02, 2019 3:38 PM CT