Sunday, February 09, 2014

Bill C-23: The Theft Of Canada's Democracy - Voter ID : Part V

The Voter ID parts of Bill C-23 are profoundly troubling, and in my view are a giant red flag that this bill should be stopped as soon as possible.  It has the distinct smell about it of turning into a variation on the "Voter ID" laws that have been passed in several US states which ultimately serve as a means to make it impossible for the nation's marginalized populations to exercise their right to vote.

Should you be scared?  Yes.

It took me a while to sort out exactly what has been done with sections 143-146 in bill C-23, because Bill C-23 is a bit of a "scattershot" - lots of "section x is replaced by" and "section y is repealed" in there.  So, I am going to walk through things starting with the existing law (last amended in 2007, it appears).  You don't have to wade through all of this right now, it is here to provide a clear checkpoint back to what the law looks like before C-23.


Admitting Voters
141. Immediately after the ballot box is sealed, the deputy returning officer shall call on the electors to vote.
142. (1) The deputy returning officer shall ensure that every elector is admitted into the polling station and that the electors are not dis- turbed when they are in or near the polling sta- tion.
(2) A deputy returning officer may, if he or she considers it advisable, direct that not more than one elector for each voting compartment may at any time enter the room where the vot- ing is held.
143. (1) Each elector, on arriving at the polling station, shall give his or her name and address to the deputy returning officer and the poll clerk, and, on request, to a candidate or his or her representative.
(2) If the poll clerk determines that the elec- tor’s name and address appear on the list of electors or that the elector is allowed to vote under section 146, 147, 148 or 149, then, sub- ject to subsection (3), the elector shall provide to the deputy returning officer and the poll clerk the following proof of his or her identity and residence:(a) one piece of identification issued by a Canadian government, whether federal, provincial or local, or an agency of that gov- ernment, that contains a photograph of the elector and his or her name and address; or
(b) two pieces of identification authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer each of which establish the elector’s name and at least one of which establishes the elector’s address.
(2.1) For greater certainty, the Chief Elec- toral Officer may authorize as a piece of identi- fication for the purposes of paragraph (2)(b) any document, regardless of who issued it.
(2.2) For the purposes of paragraph (2)(b), a document issued by the Government of Canada that certifies that a person is registered as an In- dian under the Indian Act constitutes an autho- rized piece of identification.
(3) An elector may instead prove his or her identity and residence by taking the prescribed oath if he or she is accompanied by an elector whose name appears on the list of electors for the same polling division and who
(a) provides to the deputy returning officer and the poll clerk the piece or pieces of iden- tification referred to in paragraph (2)(a) or (b), respectively; and
(b) vouches for him or her on oath in the prescribed form.
(3.1) If the address contained in the piece or pieces of identification provided under subsec- tion (2) or paragraph (3)(a) does not prove the elector’s residence but is consistent with infor- mation related to the elector that appears on the list of electors, the elector’s residence is deemed to have been proven.
(3.2) Despite subsection (3.1), a deputy re- turning officer, poll clerk, candidate or candi- date’s representative who has reasonable doubts concerning the residence of an elector referred to in that subsection may request that the elector take the prescribed oath, in which case his or her residence is deemed to have been proven only if he or she takes that oath.
(4) If the deputy returning officer is satisfied that an elector’s identity and residence have been proven in accordance with subsection (2) or (3), the elector’s name shall be crossed off the list and, subject to section 144, the elector shall be immediately allowed to vote.(5) No elector shall vouch for more than one elector at an election.
(6) An elector who has been vouched for at an election may not vouch for another elector at that election.
(7) The Chief Electoral Officer shall publish each year, and within three days after the issue of a writ, in a manner that he or she considers appropriate, a notice setting out the types of identification that are authorized for the pur- pose of paragraph (2)(b). The first annual no- tice shall be published no later than six months after the coming into force of this subsection. 2000, c. 9, s. 143; 2007, c. 21, s. 21, c. 37, s. 1.
143.1 If a person decides to prove his or her identity and residence by taking the prescribed oath, the person who administers the oath shall, before doing so, orally advise the oath taker of the qualifications for electors and the penalty that may be imposed under this Act on a person who is convicted of voting or attempting to vote at an election knowing that he or she is not qualified as an elector.
2007, c. 21, s. 21.
144. A deputy returning officer, poll clerk, candidate or candidate’s representative who has reasonable doubts concerning whether a person intending to vote is qualified as an elector may request that the person take the prescribed oath, and the person shall not be allowed to vote un- less he or she takes that oath.
2000, c. 9, s. 144; 2007, c. 21, s. 21.
144.1 Once an elector has been given a bal- lot, no person shall require the elector to prove his or her identity and residence in accordance with subsection 143(2) or (3).2007, c. 21, s. 21.
145. [Repealed, 2007, c. 21, s. 21]146. If a name and address in the list of
electors correspond so closely with the name and address of a person who demands a ballot as to suggest that it is intended to refer to that person, the person shall not be allowed to vote unless he or she takes the prescribed oath.2000, c. 9, s. 146; 2007, c. 21, s. 22.
147. If a person asks for a ballot at a polling station after someone else has voted under that person’s name, the person shall not be allowed to vote unless he or she takes the prescribed oath.
2000, c. 9, s. 147; 2007, c. 21, s. 22.
148. If an elector claims that his or her name has been crossed off in error from an official list of electors under subsection 176(2) or (3), the elector shall not be allowed to vote unless the returning officer verifies that the elector’s name was crossed off in error or the elector takes the oath referred to in section 147.2000, c. 9, s. 148; 2007, c. 21, s. 22. 
After Bill C-23 is passed (assuming no consequential amendments), the revised law will look like this:  (emphasis added where there are changes made)

Admitting Voters141. Immediately after the ballot box is sealed, the deputy returning officer shall call on the electors to vote.142. (1) The deputy returning officer shall ensure that every elector is admitted into the polling station and that the electors are not dis- turbed when they are in or near the polling sta- tion.(2) A deputy returning officer may, if he or she considers it advisable, direct that not more than one elector for each voting compartment may at any time enter the room where the vot- ing is held.143. (1) Each elector, on arriving at the polling station, shall give his or her name and address to the deputy returning officer and the poll clerk, and, on request, to a candidate or his or her representative.
Proof of identity and residence
(2) If the poll clerk determines that the elector’s name and address appear on the list of electors or that the elector is allowed to vote under section 146, 147, 148 or 149, then the elector shall provide the deputy returning officer and the poll clerk with the following proof of the elector’sidentity and residence:
(a) one piece of identification issued by a Canadian government, whether federal, provincial or local, or an agency of that gov- ernment, that contains a photograph of the elector and his or her name and address; or
(b) two pieces of identification of a type authorized under subsection (2.1), each of which establishes the elector’s name and at least one of which establishes the elector’s address.
Authorized types of identification(2.1) The Chief Electoral Officer may authorize types of identification for the purposes of paragraph (2)(b). For greater certainty, any document — other than a notice of confirmation of registration sent under section 95 or 102 — regardless of who issued the document, may be authorized.
(2.2) For the purposes of paragraph (2)(b), a document issued by the Government of Canada that certifies that a person is registered as an In- dian under the Indian Act constitutes an autho- rized piece of identification.
Proof of residence(3.1) If the address contained in the piece or pieces of identification provided under subsection (2) does not prove the elector’s residence but is consistent with information related to the elector that appears on the list of electors, the elector’s residence is deemed to have been proven.
(3.2) Despite subsection (3.1), a deputy re- turning officer, poll clerk, candidate or candi- date’s representative who has reasonable doubts concerning the residence of an elector referred to in that subsection may request that the elector take the prescribed oath, in which case his or her residence is deemed to have been proven only if he or she takes that oath.
Examination of identification documents(3.3) A candidate or their representative may examine but not handle any piece of identification presented under this section.Voting(4) If the deputy returning officer is satisfied that an elector’s identity and residence have been proven in accordance with subsection (2), the elector’s name shall be crossed off the list and, subject to section 144, the elector shall be immediately allowed to vote.
(7) The Chief Electoral Officer shall publish each year, and within three days after the issue of a writ, in a manner that he or she considers appropriate, a notice setting out the types of identification that are authorized for the pur- pose of paragraph (2)(b). The first annual no- tice shall be published no later than six months after the coming into force of this subsection. 2000, c. 9, s. 143; 2007, c. 21, s. 21, c. 37, s. 1.
143 [Repealed, 2014 ...] 
144. A deputy returning officer, poll clerk, candidate or candidate’s representative who has reasonable doubts concerning whether a person intending to vote is qualified as an elector may request that the person take the prescribed oath, and the person shall not be allowed to vote un- less he or she takes that oath.
2000, c. 9, s. 144; 2007, c. 21, s. 21.
Proof of identity, etc., or oath not required144.1 Once an elector has been given a ballot, no person shall require the elector to prove his or her identity and residence in accordance with subsection 143(2).
145. [Repealed, 2007, c. 21, s. 21]146. If a name and address in the list ofelectors correspond so closely with the name and address of a person who demands a ballot as to suggest that it is intended to refer to that person, the person shall not be allowed to vote unless he or she takes the prescribed oath.2000, c. 9, s. 146; 2007, c. 21, s. 22.
Person in whose name another has voted147. If a person asks for a ballot at a polling station after someone else has voted under that person’s name, the person shall not be allowed to vote unless he or she takes an oath in writing in the prescribed form. The form is to state the penalty that may be imposed under this Act on a person who is found guilty of requesting a second ballot at an election contrary to section 7 or of applying for a ballot in a name that is not his or her own contrary to paragraph 167(1)(a).Name crossed off list in error148. If an elector claims that his or her name has been crossed off in error from an official list of electors under subsection 176(2) or (3), the elector shall not be allowed to vote unless the returning officer verifies that the elector’s name was crossed off in error or the elector takes the oath referred to in section 147 in writing.
This is only slightly more readable than the tabled legislation currently before Parliament, but it does give an idea of the changes being made in this section of the laws related to the conduct of an election in Canada.

Perhaps the most troubling, and shocking, aspect of these amendments is 143(3.3) which reads as follows:
(3.3) A candidate or their representative may examine but not handle any piece of identification presented under this section.
This is unprecedented.  At no time in my recollection have the party scrutineers at polling stations ever had any specific right to inspect the ID provided by a voter.  In adding this particular clause, the very process of obtaining a ballot has just become subject to political interference.

Consider the following scenario.  The CPC in particular is known to have a database which it uses for tracking both supporters and non-supporters.  It contains as much  identifying information as they have been able to glean from various sources, including legal names, addresses and so on.  So, one could easily imagine a situation where the CPC gives a bunch of "scrutineers" a list of names, and they stand behind the returning officers desks and as various people come up, they check their list.  Voters who are on the "supporter" list get left alone, and voters who are unknown or even explicit non-supporters, are suddenly subject to direct inspection of every piece of ID put forward.

The effect is one where even if the party scrutineer doesn't actually stop an individual voter from voting, they create an atmosphere of intimidation within the polling station.  That will cause some voters to feel that their right to a secret ballot is being abrogated, and they may be reluctant to vote in subsequent elections.

One might ask why I pick out the CPC as likely to conduct such an activity?  Simple.  The CPC has already been shown to engage in a variety of voter suppression tactics, most recently the Robocalls carried out in 2011, but there are other more subtle forms of voter suppression that emerged in the 2008 and 2006 campaigns which have never been fully investigated.

The removal of the "Vouching System" for voters seems unnecessary and punitive for no apparently good reason - the analysis conducted after the 2011 election suggests strongly that the amount of voter fraud arising from the process of Vouching is next to nil.

The Neufeld report found “irregularities”, or administrative errors in 1.3 per cent of votes cast on election day -- meaning there were an average of 500 administrative errors per electoral district. The report made recommendations to Elections Canada for how to improve Canada’s voter services. 
But the curious thing about the report’s findings is that they are completely at odds with the Fair Elections Act.  
The Neufeld report makes no recommendations to axe or change vouching and Voter Information Cards. It does not attribute any administrative errors or “irregularities” made on Election Day to the vouching process itself either. In fact, in no place does the report advocate that vouching be scrapped. 
To combat voting day errors, Neufeld and his coauthors recommend Canada adopt an entirely new voting services model to address the challenges on Voting Day. As it’s clear that an administrative fix won’t solve everything, it recommends Elections Canada ensure that the 200,000 election officers recruited and trained each election receive better recruitment, screening, training and support to better do their jobs on Election Day.
... But a study of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases shows that actual ballot box fraud is infinitesimal -- it occurs just 0.0000068 per cent of the time, or almost never. 
The report crunched data from across the United States -- where there are 146 million registered voters -- and found just 10 cases of voter fraud.That fraud represents one out of about every 15 million prospective voters. 
The fact is that the vast majority of voter fraud cases are a result of human error, and voter ID laws will do nothing to change that. 
In short, the voter identification changes appear to be designed primarily to make it harder for Canadians to vote.  Where a lack of access to adequate identification documents doesn't stop them, the prospect of being subjected to partisan inspection every time one walks into the polling station will cause a great many people to not participate on the very real grounds of a fear of retaliation simply for not belonging to the dominant party.

2 comments:

Rural said...

Thank you for your ongoing dissection of this legislation, It is, as is most legislation, very hard to see the impact of the changes with the way in which such things are written, One would almost think that bill are deliberately written as to make them difficult to understand. I started on this one but gave up so please keep up the excellent work so that we may see exactly what this bill contains.

Rural said...

Then there is this...
James Sprague, who was senior general counsel to Elections Canada until he retired in 2006, said
“Given the reported faults that took place respecting vouching … the infringement of the constitutional right to vote may not be justifiable. You are essentially taking away an option to vote from citizens because some poll officers were poorly trained.”
Exactly!