Despite the uproar over the Conservative government’s new election law, the country’s chief electoral officer said Monday he’s confident those who want to vote on Oct. 19 will get a chance to do so. Marc Mayrand said his agency is going to great lengths to inform people, particularly online and in aboriginal communities. New, legislative requirements for identification should not cause problems, as long as voters prepare themselves, he said. “I think we’ll see a good election,” he said. “We have taken various measures to ensure no one is denied the right to vote.” Mayrand downplayed opposition party warnings, which resounded during the divisive debate over Bill C-23, that thousands will be unable to vote because of the new rules. However, he placed the burden of exercising democratic rights on the shoulders of electors. “If anybody is turned away from the polls, or anybody stays home because of concerns, I think there should be no concerns there,” he said. “I think there is a way (to vote). If you’re concerned about your ability to establish your ID and address, please contact us.”
The law requires voters to have a piece of photo identification with an address, such as a driver’s license. But one of the principal concerns with the new Fair Elections Act is that this provision might disproportionately disqualify aboriginals on crowded reserves. “One of the problems aboriginals have in this country is that on reserves, often, there is no address at all,” Mayrand said.
The new law also ends the practice of vouching, in which a properly identified voter can vouch for the identity of someone lacking complete ID.