Acceptable Voter Identification?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Elections in Canada are pretty awesome.  Up here in the Great White North, elections are short and relatively concise affairs.  Perhaps it’s because if the election’s in winter, no one wants to venture outside in a -40C blizzard; if the election’s in summer, no one wants to battle mosquitoes and black flies.  Either way, for voters, it’s a win-win in terms of how much election hullabaloo we’re subjected to.  None of these party primaries and campaigning that goes on the minute the previous election is decided.  Nope. 

Take the current city council / mayoral race which got under way officially today in Edmonton (#yeg).  Nosiree.  Today was the only day to register as a candidate and wannabe councillors had a mere three hours (9am – Noon) to submit their nomination forms.  Guess how long until we vote?  Go on, guess. 

As of the writing of this post, only 27 Days until Election Day!

No, that is not a typo and I did not mean to write 227 days.  There is LESS THAN ONE MONTH in which this municipal election will run.  We’ll have a new mayor and city council before Halloween.  Now, I’m not here to gloat and flaunt our mastery of the electoral process in the face of our American cousins (ok, maybe just a little).  The reason I chose to write this post today is that while searching for the candidates in my particular ward on the City of Edmonton’s website, I clicked on the link about voter identification requirements which I found particularly interesting.

Does anyone out there remember the brouhaha during the last American Presidential election regarding voter ID laws?  I freely and honestly admit that I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have although I find American politics super exciting compared to our often stayed and demure debates.  What I remember is this:  Republicans wanted to change the laws and, according to Democrats, make it more difficult (if not impossible) for thousands of likely Obama supporters to vote.  Again, I apologise for likely not summarising that very well and possibly getting the whole situation wrong altogether.  If I had to choose to belong to particular party in their odd 2-party system, I freely and proudly admit that I (although Canadian) consider myself most closely aligned with the Democrats.  My Libertarian/Tea Party leaning co-worker Lily takes far too much delight in pointing out that I have a number of conservative leanings, especially when it comes to fiscal issues.  ‘Tis true. I do.

I seem to be rambling a bit and starting to head off topic so let me get right to the point.  To the right is the image used on the City of Edmonton’s election website informing potential voters of what is, and what is not considered acceptable identification when it comes to voting is not.

I have to admit, I stared at this image for about five minutes straight trying to sort it out.  Passports and student IDs have pictures but no address. Makes sense that you can’t use these as identification.  Alberta Health Care card – neither picture nor address.  Ditto.  However, utility bills and personal cheques or bank statements ARE acceptable? WTF?!  Sure there’s an address on them, along with the name of the person you’re saying you are but where’s the proof that that is you?!  To be double sure, I even checked the link the City offered to this official looking PDF document which lists all the forms of acceptable ID.  It states that the potential voter may vote after producing a government issued identification with picture, name and address.  However, the list of other forms of accepted identification does not indicate you need to produce anything with a picture! For all the election worker knows, someone could rifle through the trash/recycling in an apartment building pulling multiple bills or statements out and then voting numerous times at different polling stations within a particular ward, identifying themselves as different people each time.  To be honest, I doubt that this type of voter fraud honestly happens often enough to make any real difference (or as often as the Republican Party would have had us believe during Obama’s re-election campaign).  However, and here goes my conservative tendencies sneaking out, I want people to have to show picture ID to vote.  I feel we should have to prove who we are and that we live in a particular area in order to vote in an election (at any level).  

Before anyone flips out on me and starts in on how difficult it would be for people with lower incomes, the working poor, the elderly on fixed incomes,etc to obtain a government issued photo ID, I get it.  I understand.  And yes, unfortunately, that is a significant segment of the population.  Why not offer FREE general identification cards to citizens if they can provide proof of residence/address?  Yes, there’s a cost associated with this (I work in government, I know) but it wouldn’t be as huge as, say, sending troops to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan for years on end.  Just putting that out there…

But wait!  Having a government database/registry of everyone’s name and addresses?  Dear god that smacks of Big Brother!  NO NO NO, you cry!  We don’t want it for our guns, why would we want it for something really important like where we live.  Uh… phone books anyone?  Seriously, most people put more personal information on Facebook than they would put out there if you provided government issued IDs for your citizens.  God forbid though, if you even hint at the start of an Orwellian future, you’ll be shunned and shamed.

Look, I’m not saying I have the answer, I don’t.  But there has to be some way we can all come together and allow people their right to vote in open and free elections while still ensuring that we can show proof that we’re entitled to that vote.  

Discuss.

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