Election Universe

New elections laws could disenfranchise voters in Canada

New elections laws could disenfranchise voters in Canada
August 19 2015, 20:23

As Canada prepares for its 42nd federal election, some advocacy groups are rising concerns over the possible disenfranchisement of voters resulting from the recent changes in election legislation.

The Fair Election Act (Bill C-23)

Earlier this year, Parliament passed a bill with multiple amendments to the Canada Elections Act. While the law known as The Fair Election Act is meant to prevent fraud and avoid irregularities, critics have pointed out that by tightening up voter ID requirements, tens of thousands of Canadians could be prevented from casting ballots, simply because they will have a difficult time proving where they currently live.

The law prohibits the use of the voter information card and eliminates vouching as authentication methods. Voters must have valid identification (name and photo) with a current address.

Groups like The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students consider that young students, elders in care homes, indigenous voters on reserves and people who are homeless are being disenfranchised by the new ID voting rules. They argue that this change could also cause problems for anyone who has recently moved.

Advocacy groups and independent voters sought an interim injunction against this key voter identification provision, but they will have to wait until after the fall elections to be heard. The Ontario Superior Court refused to grant them leave to appeal, pointing to the fact that the appeal is happening too close to the election.

The five-year rule for expats

Another debate has sparked in Canada over a federal law that takes the right to vote away from citizens who have lived abroad for more than five years. Justice George Strathy, who backs the law, argues that “permitting all non-resident citizens to vote would allow them to participate in making laws that affect Canadian residents on a daily basis, but have little to no practical consequence for their own daily lives.”

In response, groups of expats are considering to take their fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

This law, which is now under close scrutiny, has been on the books since 1993. However, in 2014 the Ontario Superior Court overturned it, when Justice Michael Penny ruled that the ban was unconstitutional, because citizenship, not residency, is the fundamental requirement for voting. Nevertheless, this year, The Ontario Court of Appeal struck down Penny’s call.

In a country with a voter turnout of just 61 per cent in its last federal election, some might argue that Election authorities must now focus on encouraging citizens’ vote and making sure the voters have enough information available about their right to vote. If you are Canadian make sure you check once again the basic things to know for the Federal Election and how changes in electoral laws might affect you in order to vote next October.

Sources: Thestar.com, News1130.com, Globalnews.ca, Cbc.ca

Image by FrankWinkler via Pixabay