Pierre Poilievre, champion of free and open elections, wants you to know that the Conservative Government is battling electoral fraudsters. When asked whether his bill — The Fair Elections Act — would actually drive down voter turnout, Poilievre rejected that idea absolutely.
“When someone lies about their identity or residence in order to vote illegally, they are stealing or cancelling out another person’s vote,” Poilievre told the House during Question Period. “That is an attack on honest Canadians who are trying to have a legitimate influence within our voting system. Some identification methods have a significant rate of error, and we will eliminate these methods in order to protect the integrity of the vote.”
What he’s talking about are two of the most contentious things in the bill — the end of the use of ‘vouching’ (one elector signing an oath that another voter, who is not on the electoral rolls, is in fact a valid voter) and the axing of voter information cards as a quasi-valid piece of ID.
That’s interesting. Why, Pierre?
“The reality is that vouching is not safe; it is not secure. After The Fair Elections Act is passed, it will not be allowed,” he said.
He has statistics, too! 25 per cent of those who vouched in 2011 had “irregularities,” he said. They have to stop that.
Poilieve’s statistics are actually wrong. In 2011, according to an Elections Canada audit, in 42 per cent of cases where voters needed to be vouched for, there were irregularities. That’s about 45,000 irregularities of the 120,000 vouchings that occurred. Wow! So much electoral fraud.
But wait, what’s an irregularity?
For 90 per cent of those cases, the irregularity was a minimal one — it was a circumstance where the voucher also did not appear on the electoral list (but they still would have to prove that they live in the riding.) In about 10 per cent of the cases, the voucher did not live in the same polling division as the voter. And then in about 0.007 per cent of the cases, a voucher tried to vouch for more than one voter.
Poilievre’s 25 per cent comes from another (ostensibly, overlapping) statistic. It’s the percentage of vouchings, according to the audit, “where the voter also needed to have their ID and/or address vouched for where the tick box [on the registration form] confirming that vouching was required was not checked.”
So of those “irregularities” that Poilievre keeps bringing up — technicalities, and unchecked boxes. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
If these rules were in place prior to the 2011 election, 120,000 voters would have been turned away from voting. That’s a problem.
And what of the voter information card?
It’s that red-and-white card mailed to you to confirm that you, are, indeed on the list. This card was never valid ID for a voter, although many believe it is. Returning officers, though, had the ability to bend the rules to admit voters using that card. Given the number of people who tried to use it, Elections Canada tried a trial run in the November 2010 by-elections, and then expanded it to thousands of voting locations for the 2011 campaign. Here’s what it found:
“From the limited data returned as of July 18, 2011, the proportion of electors who used their VIC with another authorized piece of identification (e.g. hospital bracelet) to cast their vote in seniors’ residences and long-term care facilities was about 73 percent. In targeted polling sites on Aboriginal reserves, the proportion of electors who used their VIC with another authorized piece of identification (e.g. Certificate of Indian Status) was 36 percent. Of the small number of students able to take advantage of the initiative, 62 percent used the VIC. The initiative made the voter identification process run more smoothly and reduced the need to ask the responsible authorities for letters of attestation of residence.”
But after this bill passes, that will be killed. No more letting Betty from the room at the end of the cancer ward go down with her voter information card and her hospital bracelet. No more letting First Nations employ their status cards as a second piece, alongside the red-and-white card.
Poilievre hasn’t explained that to us yet.
Brad Butt, MP for Mississauga–Streetsville, made an attempt during the debate. He told the House that he’s seen campaign workers scoop up piles of voter information cards and hand them out to dummy voters, and then take them all to the polls.
Well, unless Brad Butt is a superspy, and was stalking those campaign workers (or, unless it was his campaign that was doing it) that’s entirely absurd and made up.
You still need a second piece of ID to use those voter information cards — it’s benefit is that it serves as proof of address (for voters with outdated ID) and it serves as a corroborative second piece for voters who do not have photo identification. It has not been, nor can it be, the sole piece of identification for a voter.
The government should get props for expanding the list of useable IDs, but they’ve utterly failed to explain why these two charges are necessary.
Other columns by Justin Ling
Follow Justin Ling on twitter: @Justin_Ling