New ID rules cause confusion at polls

Voters across the country were having difficulties casting their ballots in the federal election Tuesday.

Voters across the country had difficulties casting their ballots in the federal election Tuesday. 

According to an Elections Canada official, many people were unaware of a new rule that requires voters to present either one piece of identification showing their name and address or two pieces of ID, each of which shows their name and at least one of which shows their address.

Elections Canada official Dana Doiron said people have been turning up with passports or other pieces of ID that do not contain an address.

He said that in most cases, voters eventually got the proper paperwork or they were vouched for by someone else. (In lieu of proper ID, an elector can take an oath and be vouched for by another elector whose name is on the list of electors for the same polling division and who has the necessary ID.)

But voters across the country — from Nova Scotia to the Northwest Territories — have still been reporting problems.

At Dalhousie University in Halifax, almost two-thirds of the students showing up to cast ballots on campus were turned away because they didn't have the necessary signed form from their university residence stating their address or were off-campus students, said Mark Coffin, vice-president of education on the Dalhousie student council. The form is the only way for some students to prove they live in the area, as many of them have IDs with an address from another region.

He said he feared students who were turned away didn't go back to vote.

"You know, 1.4 million young Canadians didn't vote in the last election," Coffin said. "Well, these new rules aren't making it any easier for students to vote."

In Vancouver, polling station representative Pendra Wilson said she saw several voters turned away after they arrived without proper identification.

"I think every Canadian should be able to vote," Wilson told CBC News. "It made me sick to see so many conscientious Canadians not allowed to vote today."

People turned away in North

In the Yukon and Northwest Territories, election officials told CBC News Tuesday that they have had some problems with the new rules regarding proof of identity.

"The new rules regarding addresses and address changes have created some difficulty with some electors," said Seann Springfield, a supervisor at a Whitehorse polling station. "Some people have been turned away."

Whitehorse resident Angel Hall said she was turned away because the identification she brought was not sufficient. Being turned away upset  Hall, who said she works with young aboriginal people and had been trying to encourage people to vote.

"I was … really rallying people to come vote.… People who are, like, the toughest demographic to get to come out and vote," she said. "I had to come back and say, 'I can't vote!'"

The new rule was passed by Parliament last year but was highlighted in a $9.3 million advertising blitz during the 37-day election campaign.   

Doiron said Elections Canada got a sense of how widespread the lack of awareness was at the advance polls when people failed to show up with the proper ID.

Other problems emerge at polls

Voters across Canada reported other problems at the polls as well. In Wild Rose riding in Alberta, Janice Tanton said she was turned away from her local polling station when she arrived at 7:25 p.m. local time.

"They weren't going to let us in, and I raised my voice that it wasn't 7:30 yet, and how were working families supposed to be able to exercise their right to vote in this country," Tanton wrote in an email to "She let us in."

In Montreal, Beth Blackmore told that wait times were a major issue, saying she had to wait more than an hour to cast her vote in her riding of Outremont.

In Vanderhoof, B.C., Patricia Crosby said that confusion over the hours of her polling situation prevented her from voting. She told CBC News that she struggled to find a convenient polling station after she received a notice notifying her that the hours at her own local poll had changed.

"A country like Canada who send representatives to far-off lands to ensure foreigners' right to free elections would do well to safeguard their own country," Crosby wrote.

With files from the Canadian Press