We, the undersigned — professors at Canadian universities who study the principles and institutions of constitutional democracy — believe that the Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23), if passed, would damage the institution at the heart of our country’s democracy: voting in federal elections. We urge the Government to heed calls for wider consultation in vetting this Bill. While we agree that our electoral system needs some reforms, this Bill contains proposals that would seriously damage the fairness and transparency of federal elections and diminish Canadians’ political participation. Beyond our specific concerns about the Bill’s provisions (see below), we are alarmed at the lack of due process in drafting the Bill and in rushing it through Parliament. We see no justification for introducing legislation of such pivotal importance to our democracy without significant consultation with Elections Canada, opposition parties, and the public at large.
The Bill proposes to dispense with the use of Voter Information Cards (VICs) as a piece of identification that voters can use (in tandem with another piece of officially recognized ID) to prove their identity and address. The use of voter cards is especially important for Canadians who lack ID that proves their current address, such as students, senior citizens in long-term care facilities, First Nations citizens, and those who have recently moved. Although not perfect, VICs are more likely to provide an accurate address than most other forms of ID, including drivers’ licenses. We believe that the elimination of VICs as a valid form of ID in federal elections would reduce the likelihood of voting by some citizens.
Currently, Elections Canada protects the right to vote of citizens who lack standard forms of identification by allowing them to take an oath affirming their identity, citizenship, and residence in the polling division, and having a qualified voter from the same polling division vouch for their eligibility. In 2011, approximately 120,000 citizens relied on the vouching provision in order to vote. By eliminating vouching, the Fair Elections Act would disenfranchise many of these citizens.
Full Article: Don’t undermine Elections Canada | National Post.