Politics·Updated

Want to vote on Oct. 19? Make sure you have proper ID

If you want to make casting a ballot as easy as possible, now's the time to ensure you have proper ID with your current address.
Voters must show ID that includes a current address in order to cast a ballot, or take an oath with the assistance of another registered voter with proper ID. Voter information cards are not acceptable. Do your research now to make sure you can vote on Oct. 19. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

If you want to make casting a ballot as easy as possible on Oct. 19, now's the time to ensure you have proper ID with your current address.

With the 2008 election, the government started requiring all voters — including those on the list of registered voters — to present approved ID with an address before casting a ballot.

That's tougher than you might think. Pieces of government-issued photo ID, like a driver's licence, are the best option. But 15 per cent of Canadians don't have a driver's licence.

Voters without that ID will need two pieces of identification, and at least one of them must show name and current address on it, according to Canadian election law. (On passports, for example, people write in their own addresses, so it isn't official enough to satisfy the government's rules).

The Elections Canada list of approved ID with address includes:

  • Utility bills.
  • Bank statements.
  • Government cheques or cheque stubs.
  • Income tax assessments.
  • Letters of confirmation of residence from a First Nations band or reserve or an Inuit local authority.
  • Letters of confirmation of residence, letters of stay, admission forms or statements of benefits from student residences, seniors' residences, long-term care facilities, or shelters and soup kitchens.

ID with name and photo or name alone includes:

  • Health cards.
  • Canadian passports.
  • Birth certificates.
  • Band membership or Métis cards.
  • Student or employee ID.
  • Library cards.

The ID can be expired as long as the address is current, and print-outs of electronic statements are accepted. Voters can also show the statement or bill on a mobile device, according to Elections Canada.

Voter info cards banned as ID

Elections Canada had been moving to let all Canadians use their voter information cards as the only piece of ID required, but the Conservatives opposed that move. In fact, the new law explicitly bans using voter information cards as ID.

"Any document — other than a notice of confirmation of registration sent under section 95 or 102 — regardless of who issued the document, may be authorized," the Canada Elections Act says.

For voters who don't have ID with their address, there is still a way to cast a ballot.

They must show two pieces of ID with their name and have someone at the polling station take an oath attesting to their address. The person attesting for the voter must be registered in the same polling division and must show their own proof of identity and address. The person attesting can only do so for one voter.

A polling division is a relatively small piece of a riding — even the same neighbourhood will have multiple polling divisions — so Elections Canada recommends the person attesting be someone who lives with the voter, or right next door.

The Council of Canadians and Canadian Federation of Students are challenging the changes brought in under the Fair Elections Act, arguing they make it harder for tens of thousands of people to vote. They had asked an Ontario Superior Court justice to suspend the new voter ID rules for the 2015 election, but in July the judge denied the request.

The two groups are appealing that decision.

Corrections

  • This story has been updated from a previous version that incorrectly stated you need photo ID to vote. In fact, government-issue photo ID with your address is the best option, but two pieces of certain ID or documents that prove your identify and current address are acceptable. This story was earlier updated to clarify that changes to ID requirements date to 2007 and were first used in the 2008 election. A law passed last year clarified some rules around ID.
    Sep 13, 2015 3:37 PM ET

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