Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Canada Elections Act

Apparently, the Conservatives have introduced a new bill that would "force all voters — including veiled Muslim women — to show their faces for identification before being allowed to vote in federal elections."

I'm sure there will be many rants about this, but from me, just a question: doesn't this effectively disenfranchise everyone voting by mail? Including, say, all military personnel serving in Afghanistan at the time of an election?

[Update: Apparently, I'm not the only one wondering this.]


Anonymous said...

Perhaps there will be an exception for overseas and mail ballots. I thought Harper initially went on the attack on this because he was trying to deflect attention from the Conservative election advertising scheme that was disallowed by Elections Canada, but then the way it was reported, led to enormous public support for the idea of having to show one's face. I'm not sure this actually reflects most Canadian's views. For example, I was initially against the EC ruling, because it was presented as a religious exemption (don't show your face if it is for religious reasons, but for any other reason you must) and I just don't like to see religion mixed with politics. Ontario doesn't require anyone to show their face and it works fine with no public opposition.
I wonder if it now was debated without all the rhetoric of the initial time, if Canadians would be more rational. The bottom line, is there really isn't any reason to show one's face if one is not using photo identification.

Dave said...

The Canadian Forces don't vote by mail. They vote over the span of days at a special polling station within their unit.

I have voted by mail, however, and I would be interested to see how this is supposed to work. The draft of the Harper legislation didn't include any requirement for photo ID, so what would be the point of this?

Greg said...

How will the NDP react? That's what I want to know.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Yeah, my partner (who's been out-of-country for a while) votes by mail, too. I can't imagine that she'll be too thrilled with this...

Anonymous said...

So far, the only politician I've seen speaking against Friday's bill is Ignatieff, and even he was ambiguous.

During a campaign for three federal seats in Quebec last month, all four federal parties said faces must be uncovered, but opposition Liberal Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff was cool toward the bill in remarks on Friday.

"What I don't like, and object to, is the ways in which certain politicians are stirring this up," he told reporters outside the House of Commons.

He said the Liberals were committed to achieving a balance between religious freedom and civic duty, and that a decent society "would work out a pragmatic solution that keeps everybody happy."

Here's all I've seen from the NDP so far:

Charlie Angus, electoral reform critic for the NDP, said his party will have to study the bill but supports the principle.

"We believe that voters should show visual identification; they should show their face."

which is strange, as I don't think the bill requires one to have photo ID.

The Bloc is quoted as being supportive of the bill.

There was a lot of stupid things said during the Quebec election and it would be good if the NDP and Liberal parties would rethink this whole situation and realize there is nothing wrong with the current rules.

Anonymous said...

Reform of the voting procedure in Canada is a solution looking for a problem that has never existed.

I'm sure someone says this everyday about some political issue in the news, but it's no less true today: there are other, actual, important issues that require debate, and this voting reform is just taking away from those.

Anonymous said...

The NDP has questioned the need for this bill (today's Globe):

While the Bloc appeared supportive of the bill yesterday, both the Liberals and NDP seemed decidedly less enthusiastic.

NDP Leader Jack Layton reserved comment on the bill. But he questioned why the government decided it was more urgent to deal with veiled voters - perhaps only a handful of women - than to fix an oversight in last spring's electoral law changes that wound up inadvertently disenfranchising one million rural voters who do not have formal street addresses.

The bill allows an exception for bandages covering the face for medical reasons. No indication it changes anything with respect to voting by mail, as it seems to only apply at polling stations. It is sad that Canada is so screwed up these days.

Greg said...

IP this would only be an issue if the government was actually trying to do something to prevent voting fraud. It is not. It is (with assists from the opposition) using Muslim women as scapegoats to appease the mouth breathers in rural Quebec, for political gain.

Don't worry, the government will find a way to exempt mail in voters. They don't need to be consistent. That is not the point they are trying to make. The point they are trying to make is "we" are in charge and "we" make the rules and "you" will obey or go home. Simple.

Ryan said...

Perhaps this is the first step in requiring voter id cards.

I'm not a conspiracy type, but if you require id, a lot of people will be disenfranchised, more specifically the homeless.

Raphael Alexander said...

which is strange, as I don't think the bill requires one to have photo ID.

This was my major question. What's the point of seeing one's face if a SIN card and a Hydro bill constitutes identification?

Anonymous said...

In the recent Ontario election, for the first time people already on the voters' list were asked to present some form of ID. Interpretation of this custom varied widely - some returning officers readily offered the alternative of making a statutory declaration, others asked for two forms of ID or for photo ID, neither of which were required. People who weren't on the voters' list (e.g. many students living off campus) were required to show some official documentation of their address.

I believe that these customs disenfranchised some marginal populations, although I can't prove it. And because I'm the kind of knee-jerk Canadian nationalist who tends to assume that it's always a bad thing to adopt any custom that was American first, I worry about any moves towards making voting more difficult. Is there any evidence of vote fraud in Canada?

Anonymous said...


Can't speak for current practice, but I've had a number of old vote-buying and vote-fraud tricks explained to me in the past by people whose family were involved in them (for example, the vote buyer would go in, obtain a ballot, and pretend to cast it; those selling their ballots would take the filled-in ballot from the buyer on the way in, and get paid for the blank ballot they were issued on the way out, which would be filled in for the next voteseller).

There were allegations during the last election or two, but I'm not sure they ever got much past people complaining about irregularities.

Vote-rigging is certainly something that was part of our past, so I wouldn't be surprised if it was part of our present and future.

Overall, the goal in designing a system of voting is to balance your priorities: you want to make it easy for people who should be able to vote to vote, and hard for people who shouldn't be voting to vote. Someone who votes that shouldn't be is just as much a problem as someone that isn't allowed to vote who should be (in the sense of the effect on a single election; in some cases, either way can also have disproportionate effects on future elections).

Mind you, like a lot of government initiatives from any party, the veiled voting issue is more about creating the appearance of doing something than actually accomplishing something worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time, adults in Canada had common sense. It is entirely sensible to permit mail-in ballots in order to maximize the opportunity to exercise the right to vote for the small minority that require such a practical concession, and simultaneously to require those who do vote in person to provide proof of identity. Bill C-31, passed in the last session of this Parliament, does that (see paragraph 21). By default it requires the voter to produce photo ID - and what is the point of requiring photo ID unless the photo is to be compared to something?

The Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada has the power to authorize other means of identification - which he could do to accommodate veiled people and people without government-issued photo ID - but apparently he would rather raise a fuss by pretending that photo ID doesn't imply visual confirmation. Apparently he has less common sense than the average muscle-headed bouncer.