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New Canadian election rules will shut out students, says group

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

(QMI Agency file photo)

(QMI Agency file photo)

Changes to identification requirements for voting in federal elections could prevent many students from casting a ballot, a student group has warned.

On Monday, the Fair Elections Act passed second reading in Ottawa and part of the controversial bill would eliminate the ability to have someone vouch for your identity at the voting booth if you do not have photo ID with a street address on it.

Chardaye Bueckert, Simon Fraser Student Society’s external relations officer, said the changes could hamper voting by students who have just moved to a new town for university and may not have the required ID.

“We see that voter turnout rates for youth in particular are very low,” Bueckert said. “We’re concerned with anything that could potentially inhibit their ability to participate.”

The bill requiring photo ID with a street address was initiated in 2008, and at the time advocates warned it would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of rural voters, homeless people and students.

Ottawa said the changes were needed to protect the integrity of the voting system.

At the time, the government said the vouching system was in place to prevent that, but the day after the 2008 election many people, a large number of them students, complained they were unable to vote.

Bueckert said inaccessible polling stations and election dates often make it hard for students to vote in the first place.

“By no fault of their own I think students are more transient than other segments of the population,” she said. “It could hamper your ability to vote if you can’t have somebody vouch for you, which is obviously very concerning.”

When the initial changes were made in 2008 the British Columbia Public Interest Advocacy Centre challenged the changes, pointing out that in 20 years only two people had been charged with voter fraud in federal elections.

The centre alleged the government was actually trying to suppress voter turnout.




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