The Conservative government’s proposed “Fair Elections Act” aims to “protect the fairness of federal elections.” Yet, rather than effectively address issues like the 2011 robocall fraud, the Act attempts to tackle supposed individual voter fraud by prohibiting the use of “Voter Information Cards” (VICs) and ending the process of “vouching.” Presumably, since approximately 120,000 Canadians utilized vouching and 36-73 per cent of youth, aboriginal peoples and seniors used VICs in a 900,000-person pilot program during the last federal election, there is compelling evidence to justify making it harder for so many Canadians to vote. Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre points to the Neufeld Report for justification that the process of vouching needs to end. Yet this independent report does not present one iota of evidence that there was one case of actual fraud by an individual voter. Nor does it recommend that vouching be eliminated.
Rather, in response to the legitimate concern that there were “irregularities” in 25 per cent of the cases in which vouching was used, the report calls for common sense administrative fixes for 2015, and a transition to an entirely new voter services model for 2019.
Canada is not alone in debating what to do about vouching. After months of extensive public consultations surrounding the trade-off between more stringent ID requirements and making it harder for people to vote – a conversation that a well-functioning democracy should encourage – Queensland, Australia, decided to go a step further than simply allowing vouching. To vote in Queensland, all an Australian needs to do is stroll into a polling booth, state that they do not have proper identification, and sign a declaration confirming their identity which is later checked against the electoral roll. This is expected to “drastically reduce the number of people who won’t be able to vote in the next election.” Unfortunately, no similar public debate is underway in Canada.