Monday, October 29, 2007

Should dead people be allowed to vote?

Earlier this year a story broke where a woman from Seattle managed to get her dog on the voters list. The dog received ballots in 3 seperate elections before the problem was corrected. She was protesting changes made to electoral law making it vulnerable to electoral fraud.

In the recent federal by elections in Quebec, the issue of electoral fraud took centre stage. Feeding off of growing hatred toward Muslims the issue of women who cover their faces became a controversial issue. There were new requirements in place requiring photo ID instead of just a voter card to vote. The Chief Electoral Officer interpreted the law correctly that if Photo ID was not available other forms of non-photo ID could be used. Therefore it was unnecessary to require these women to uncover their faces. 80,000 people voted in the last federal election by mail where there was no direct contact with the voter and the returning officer. There was still fear that Muslim women could commit electoral fraud. The government insisted that Elections Canada should abide by the spirit of the law and make these women identify themselves in a respectful and appropriate manner. Muslim groups were upset because they never objected to providing proper identification in order to vote.

In the recent Ontario election there were names on the voters list that I knew had died or no longer met the residency requirements. Under the old system a voter card would have been all they needed to vote or have someone illegally vote in their place. The new system of identification adds a much needed level of security. If photo ID is not available the secondary form of identification (ie. Debit Card &Utility Bill) could still be in possession of a spouse and used to gain a ballot illegally.

On Friday the government introduced Bill C-6 that would make visual identification mandatory when casting a ballot. This allows returning officers to be able to identify someone suspected of committing electoral fraud such as posing as someone else or attempting to vote twice.

Opponents of this bill are argue that it is unfair introducing legislation on the backs of 50 Muslim women that did not pose a problem to the electoral system and that those who submit mail in ballots have no contact with the returning officer. It is unfortunate that this legislation comes in response to the veil in Quebec. It really does improve the integrity of the electoral process. The bill also amends section 237 of the Canada Election Act which covers write in ballots. Visual identification will be required before a write in ballot can be obtained.

This legislation makes the electoral process just a little bit better by securing the integrity of the write in ballots. Hopefully this can be the major focus of this legislation instead of being grounds to attack the Muslim community on a very minor issue.

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