When Stephen Harper’s Conservative government passed the Fair Elections Act last year, 160 university professors warned in an open letter it “would damage the institution at the heart of our country’s democracy: voting in federal elections.” The proof of the pudding will be in the eating once we see whether voting rates are affected by the new law. The Oct. 19 federal election is ushering in new rules on voting that experts fear could discourage participation by certain groups, like youth and indigenous peoples. “It will have an impact, but just how big it’s going to be is open to debate,” said Brian Tanguay, a professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. The turnout in the 2011 election was 61.1 per cent, up slightly from 2008’s all-time low of 58.8 per cent.
… If you are among the 85 per cent of Canadian voters who hold a valid driver’s licence, voting is a simple matter of making sure you’re on the voter’s list and showing up at the right polling station. If you don’t have a driver’s licence (or, outside Quebec, other picture ID with address issued by your province or territory), you will need to show two pieces of ID, at least one of which shows your address, from among 37 documents approved by Elections Canada.
The options now include some new additions, like a prescription bottle with your name and address or a credit union statement.
However, for some, “especially among categories of voters that are highly mobile and for the most part young,” pulling together the required ID and proof of residence might pose a challenge, Tanguay said. “I think that there is reason to think that the new law will have possibly a depressing effect on turnout, especially among young, highly mobile categories of voters,” he said.