Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Voter ID means Voter Suppression

The lowest voter turnout in Canadian history coincides with the first election with stringent new voter ID rules. You are encouraged not to draw any obvious conclusions.

At my polling station I handed over my voter card I got in the mail and was asked to say my name out loud. I wasn't asked for more ID until I incredulously offered it. It seems like the rules were very inconsistent from poll to poll though.

Rick Salay's 21-year-old son and 25-year-old daughter both tried to vote in Toronto yesterday using their voter identification cards and passports. Mr. Salay said his children were told that wasn't enough. His son managed to find a piece of mail with his address, and could vote; his daughter did not, and couldn't vote.
"It just seems ludicrous to me that with those two pieces of ID [voter registration card and passport], it's still not enough," Mr. Salay said.
"A passport is good enough to get them out of the country."

Several senior citizens in Saskatoon were turned awayand turned off Tuesday after they didn't have proper identification to vote in the federal election.
"I'm very, very angry -- pissed off -- especially when I made an effort to come when I can barely walk anymore," said Phyllis Harms after she left the polling station at Bedford Road Collegiate.
Harms and her daughter, Marina Hopkins, were flabbergasted when told Harms couldn't vote because the identification she brought -- her health and social insurance cards -- didn't include Harms' address. A clerk at the poll suggested Harms use her driver's licence.
"Obviously she doesn't drive. She's legally blind," said Hopkins.
The clerk then suggested they return to Harms' home to find an approved piece of ID such as a telephone bill. That wasn't an option for the 78-year-old whose son looks after the finances and pays bills online.
Across town, in Saskatoon's downtown, several senior citizens experienced the same frustration. A special polling station was set up Tuesday afternoon for residents of The Palisades. The only problem was many don't have identification with their address. John South and his wife Doreen moved to The Palisades about six weeks ago.
"You feel pretty degraded. You feel pretty small," said John South, who is 79 years old.
"I was a little hot under the collar," recalled South of his encounter with Elections Canada officials.
The Souths returned to their apartment and eventually found a document with their new address.
"We have very few things left in this country that is sacred and voting is one of them," said South.
"I'm tired and I'm old, but I'm not going to back away from something like this."
Several other residents in the complex, including more than 20 residents in The Palisades' intermediate care unit, were refused their right to vote. The administrators had hoped their documents would be sufficient to prove these people did indeed live at The Palisades.

In Calgary-Centre, a homeless man said he was denied his right to vote because he does not stay at a shelter or visit soup kitchens.
Lawrence Oshanek said because he uses a commercial address to receive personal mail, does not stay at shelters and does not have someone who can swear they know him, he was turned down at the polling station.
"I'm a non-person," he said.
Under Elections Canada rules, homeless voters need to have proof of identity or can register on election day as long as another person from that electoral district -- who can prove their identity -- can vouch for them.

So an absurd over-reaction to the non-existent problem of voter fraud has helped contribute to the very real problem of low voter turnout - particularly among young people, seniors and the homeless.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that's by accident.

UPDATE: This post struck a nerve and got a lot of comments, hits and links since I posted it this morning. Over at POGGE's place I made this proposal:

You know Michael Geist's Facebook group Fair Copyright for Canada has something like 100,000 members now I think, and has been part of a very effective campaign to advocate for fair copyright and petition against the Canadian version of the DMCA.

It occurs to me that this could be a very effective model to educate and advocate about this issue - petition to repeal these regulations, educate people about what their rights are and network ID drive efforts.

I confess my Facebook Kung Fu is shamefully weak - anybody want to start a Voters Rights for Canadians group? Let us all know if you do so we can all promote and contribute.


Ask and ye shall receive

It doesn't have to be the only one of course.


skdadl said...

Cliff, the "voter fraud" paranoia just has neocon fingerprints all over it.

Do you happen to remember what kind of resistance the opposition parties put up to the new rules when they were first brought in? I remember that they all caved last year on the unveiling issue, another scam, but I can't remember the original debate -- if there was one.

Cliff said...

Not enough, and yes I was pissed off at my own party joining in the pile on of Mayrand for refusing to enforce non-existent law.

In the US progressives engage in large scale voter registration drives. Here in Canada I think we need to start large scale programs to get people signed up for photo ID - driver's licences or bar cards. Driving them to the Motor Vehicles registries, pushing for non-driver photo id drives for seniors centers and shelters and pushing our representatives to repeal the grotesque new restrictions we have.

In Alberta, we've now had two elections since the last enumeration - more if you count municipal votes. I simply don't believe that's by accident.

skdadl said...

You're right -- the Americans get the problem, and they're way ahead of us in organizing to meet it.

Great ideas for action. So -- how do we do that?

Cliff said...

Hmm partly through party organizations probably, partly at local levels. Push the idea on forums and personally ask those unlikely to have such id if you can help them get it.

Worth ruminating on...

Beijing York said...

Thanks for raising this issue. I was furious when they introduced changes to the Elections Canada Act and all parties supported it. There was little if any voter fraud problems in Canada.

At my polling station, I saw inconsistencies from one booth/table to the next. I had a voter card and had to present my Driver's license as ID. My husband was enumerated but never received a mailed voter card. I insisted that they look up his name on the electorate list. They kept saying not there but I told them that they had to look for HIS name, not freaking mine. Sure enough, he was on the list and only had to show his Driver's license.

An Aboriginal mother and daughter showed up, with a similar situation. Mother had a voter card but the daughter didn't. They were asked to present two pieces of ID right from the get go, without even checking to see if the daughter was on the freaking list.

Gazetteer said...

I also noticed just how long everything the polls...

I would not be surprised if were to here of warnings next time out not show up if you are a criminal, have outstanding parking tickets or library fines....

Great post Cliff - this is an important issue....I'm sure that there were a lot of folks in the WackadoodleWarroom that were ecstatic when they saw the overall number below 60.


Chrystal Ocean said...

It's putting people off in more ways than requiring people show proof of ID. The very requirement means that one is guilty until proven innocent.

We're not used to such attitudes here in Canada. And yes, their an import from the south.

Shannon said...

Those elections Canada people are serious buttheads. I took my voter card and my DL with me. My DL has the wrong address on the front, and a change of address card glued to the back (stupid ICBC). Anyway, they didn't even flip it over. Just handed me the ballot. No check of the address at all.

The line up for people without cards was INSANE. There had to be 500 people in it.

Oh, and the Lib beat the Con by 68 votes. Recount is on the way, I'm sure.

Cliff said...

From Guy who doesn't have a Blogger account:
Hi Cliff, I don't blog or have a registration so I couldn't reply to you on the blog but I thought that you should know how it worked where I was at.
I worked at a mobile poll this election in two homes for the elderly and sick, not that I am much younger at 62, but I did make it my point to help and fall over backward with the new identification procedures. I would however like to refer you to Elections Canada information folder EC 90171 "New Id Rules to vote" There is an extensive list of items that people can use for ID. I for the most part found that if people had read this folder and list that they had no trouble producing the required ID. The problems that you recorded in your blog may be due to the poll officials not correctly understanding the system. If they had taken a little time to study the job that they were asked to do most of the problems would have vanished.

I would respond to Guy that while all of that may be true, it still leaves those without a fixed address, the homeless, people who have recently moved, residents of rural and northern ridings, primarily native voters who have legal land location or communal addresses rather than municipal house number street name addresses, young people and seniors without id that includes addresses - more common then you may realize - are all disenfranchised by these new rules.

We've seen that this election. I submit these aren't bugs - they're features.

Mentarch said...

Great post - however, I have a qualm with this: "lowest voter turn out on history"

That is simply not true:

"The highest voter turnout was 79.4 per cent in 1958. The lowest was 44.6 per cent in 1898."

Hence, why what the G&M article actually stated in the article you have linked to was " One of the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history (...)"

Yes, we could have done so much better than 59.1% and we need to do so much better voting-wise. And yes, maybe the stringent voter ID requirements contributed somewhat to this.

But we should refrain from distortions of facts and/or hyperbolic exaggerations in order to make a point, eh?

Cheers ;-)

Mentarch said...

Damn it - that cbc article I linked to? "They" completely changed it after updating it and I never realized this until now. The quote is reproduced here was there originally on the first hours it was posted and when I linked to it in my earlier post.

(I hate it when "they" do this ...)

In any case - the question of whether those stringent voter ID requirements contributed in this year's low turn out, and if so, to what extent, is a very valid question - and definitely warrants investigation, especially by by Elections Canada.

But to link such an already valid question with a distortion of the truth in order to enhance it's validity is, plainly put, wrong (that is what Teh Right does, eh?).

Nevertheless, I suspect this is nothing more than an honest mistake (and *not* a disingenuous exercise) on Cliff's part ...

Cheers ;-)

Mentarch said...

... and here's another link to my quote ;-)

Mentarch said...

Damn it - they changed it again. Here's yet another link to the quote. Hopefully, they won't change it this time around.

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