North

6 things Northerners need to know about voting in the federal election

New regulations under the Fair Elections Act could make it more difficult for voters in small Northern communities to vote in the upcoming federal election. Here's what you need to know to make sure you're ready for voting day.

New election rules could make it difficult for voters in small Northern communities

New voter identification rules could make it more difficult for Northerners at the ballot box this year. Our guide lays out what you need to make sure your vote is counted. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

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  • The story has been updated to expand and clarify the identification requirements for voters.

The introduction of Canada's Fair Elections Act could cause voting issues for some northerners this fall, according to local election workers, changing the types of identification that are necessary to vote.

In past federal elections, it wasn't necessary to have identification with your address on it in order to vote. Voters could walk to the polling station with a voter card, or ask someone to vouch for you.

But according to the new legislation, in order to vote in the 2015 federal election, it is now necessary to prove who you are — and where you live — with approved identification, or you won't be able to vote.

That's an issue for some northern communities, according to Tuktoyaktuk resident — and elections worker — Molly Nogasak. According to Nogasak, voters in many of the territory's smaller, remote communities tend not to have identification. Everyone in the community knows one another, she says, and the communities are so small, you don't need to drive. 

Complicating matters, people who live in remote areas, like Tuktoyaktuk, need to travel to larger centres to get photo identification, such as a drivers license.

"It costs some monies to get it done," says Nogasak. "They have to travel to Inuvik to get it done."

Those trips could be expensive and time-consuming — but luckily, there are other ways to identify yourself in order to vote. Here's what you need to know to make sure you're ready for October 19:

1) Do you need photo ID to vote?

No. But it's the simplest way to vote. A territorial identification card or drivers licence will satisfy both requirements under the Fair Elections Act: it will prove who you are, and where you live.

2) What if I don't have photo ID?

Fear not — Elections Canada will still allow you to vote. But you will need to go to the polling station with two forms of identification: both must have your name, and one must prove where you live. Elections Canada's website lists several pieces of identification that are acceptable; an example would be a credit card with your name and signature, and a utility bill with your name and address on it.

3) What if I don't have a piece of identification that proves my address?

Anyone in your polling area can vouch for you, in place of identification that proves where you live. However, they can only vouch for one person per election, and they'll need identification that meets the requirements. You'll also still need to have two pieces of identification that prove your name.

4) If I'm on the voters list, do I still need to show ID?

You do. Elections Canada allows you to check online to both see if you are on the voters list, or register to vote. The list is not open to the public.

5) If I'm not on the voters list, can I vote?

You can! Head to the polling station on election day. You'll need to swear an oath and sign a form that attests your age, name, address and citizenship.

6) What if I don't have a street address?

According to Elections Canada, bands or Inuit organizations can issue letters that say a person lives in their community or traditional area, as well as the location where they live. They can also issue this letter for non-members who happen to live in their community. Don't forget, though, that this will only prove your address — you'll still need a second piece of identification that proves who you are. Here's a link to the letter, which can also be issued by student residences, seniors' residences, long-term care facilities, shelters, or soup kitchens.

You can still prove your address by producing identification that shows your PO box number, as long as Elections Canada has the box on file. You can add your mailing list to their files online or by phone at 1-800-463-6868. Once you've done that, you can use ID with your PO box in place of a street address in order to vote. 

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