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.
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.
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.
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.