09 February 2009

626,809 votes prevented due to ID rules

... according to the February 2nd report (PDF) authored by Marc Mayrand, Canada's chief electoral officer.

Voter participation was a significant concern in this election. After encouraging results for the 39th general election, participation by Canadian electors has again decreased, reflecting a tendency found in many modern democracies. This phenomenon seems to result from a variety of contributing factors that need to be better understood and, in my view, will require the leadership of civil society...

Mayrand identifies three areas needing attention: administrative processes, voter identification and political financing rules.

The new voter identification rules in Bills C-31 and C-18 include the requirement for a street or civic address. But 4.4 percent of registered electors haven't such an address. These include people living in rural and northern areas, in which it is common only to have a rural route number or post office box.

Given these concerns, the initial voter identification requirements were amended in Bill C-18, in late 2007. The new legislation (S.C. 2007, c. 37) provides that an elector who shows a piece of identification on which the address is consistent with the information contained on the list of electors will be deemed to have established his or her residence.

But if you are not already on the list of electors and don't have a civic address, you will face problems at your polling station.

But here's where the rubber meets the road: a post-election survey done by Elections Canada indicated that 4 percent of respondents didn't vote because they didn't have the required documentation. Of another 4 percent who showed up without the proper documents, 0.5 percent went home and didn't return to cast their votes.

There were 13,929,093 ballots cast in the 40th General Election. Hence, 626,809 votes were lost due to voter identification issues. The people most likely to have been turned away were those living in rural or northern regions, nursing homes, on the streets or in temporary shelter (homeless) and students.

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