Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

November 02, 2007 12:30 ET

Government of Canada Solves Problem of Verifying the Residence of Voters

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 2, 2007) - Today, Peter Van Loan, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, introduced in the House of Commons An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act (verification of residence). The legislation will solve the problem of verifying the residence of voters who do not have a civic address on their identification.

"Once again, our government is showing real leadership by taking quick, decisive action to strengthen our voting system by addressing the problem of verifying the residence of voters," said Minister Van Loan. "The legislative solution introduced today will ensure that legitimate voters will be able to exercise their fundamental democratic right to vote."

The Bill will allow voters, in areas where civic addresses are not used on identification (i.e. only P.O. boxes, general delivery, or rural route), to use identification that contains a non-residential address to verify their residence as long as it is consistent with the information on file in the National Register of Electors. The same rule will apply to someone who vouches for another elector: if the address on their piece of identification is consistent with the information about the voucher on the list of electors, it will be deemed to prove his or her residence.

The issue arose when returning officers advised Elections Canada that some voters - often in rural areas - may not be able to prove their residence in areas where civic addresses (i.e. only P.O. boxes, general delivery, or rural route) are not used on identification. Once the problem was identified the government moved quickly to solve it.

"Over the past few weeks, the government has worked with Elections Canada and consulted with the opposition parties to find a solution to the problem of verifying the residence of voters," continued Minister Van Loan. "I am pleased that we have a solution that works."

The government hopes that the Bill will be supported by all political parties and move quickly through the legislative process.

"It is critical that Parliament ensure legitimate voters may vote," continued Minister Van Loan. "Therefore, I call upon all opposition parties to support this Bill so that it may swiftly pass into law."

In the event that any election or by-election occurs before this Bill becomes law, the government has been assured by the Chief Electoral Officer that he will use his adaptation power to ensure all affected voters may vote.

For more information, visit www.democraticreform.gc.ca.


BACKGROUNDER

Verification of Residence

The Government has introduced a bill in the House of Commons to amend the Canada Elections Act to provide for more flexible rules to verify residence, for voters who live in areas where civic addresses are not used on identification (i.e. only P.O. boxes, general delivery, or rural route).

Description of the Bill

- The Bill will allow voters to use identification that contains an address other than a civic address to verify their residence as long as it is consistent with the information in the National Register of Electors. For instance, an elector whose piece of identification contains an address with a rural route number can establish their residence if this mailing address is consistent with information appearing on the list of electors.

- In the case of someone who vouches for another elector (the law requires that those who wish to vouch must prove their identity and residence in order to vouch for another elector), if the voucher's address is consistent with the information about the voucher on the list of electors, it can establish residence.

- The Bill also provides that an election official, or a candidate or his or her representative, may require that the voter or voucher take an oath attesting to their residence. In such a case, the residence of the elector or of the voucher will be deemed to have been established only if the person takes the oath.

- For those not on the list of electors seeking to register to vote on polling day or at an advance poll, an elector will be required to establish residence by showing identification with a residential address, since there will be no information on the list of electors against which a mailing address or incomplete civic address can be compared.

- In the alternative case where the voter seeking addition to the list of electors chooses to have another elector vouch for him or her, the voucher's non-residential address on a piece of identification will establish the voucher's residence if it is consistent with the information about the voucher on the list of electors. In addition, the voucher will have to take an oath that will include a statement about the residence of both electors.

Benefits of the Bill

- Elections Canada has recently identified that more than one million electors across the country may be unable to establish their residence by showing a piece of identification containing a residential address. These electors may not have a complete civic address that would enable them to prove their residence, while, in other cases, only a mailing address appears on their identification.

- The Verification of Residence Bill provides for more flexible identification requirements for voters who do not have identification containing a residential address in order to enable them to establish their residence before they vote. The solution was developed with the assistance of Elections Canada, the non-partisan agency responsible for the conduct of federal elections, and in consultation with the opposition parties.

Background

The Canada Elections Act requires all voters to demonstrate their identity and residence before voting. The voter identification requirements were based on a unanimous recommendation of the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. To establish identity and residence voters must either:

- show one government-issued piece of identification containing a photograph as well as the name and residential address of the voter;

- show two pieces of identification approved by the Chief Electoral Officer, both of which contain the name of the elector, and one of which contains his or her residential address; or

- have another registered elector in the same polling division vouch for the elector, after having shown the piece(s) of identification mentioned above.

Recently, returning officers have notified Elections Canada that many electors do not have a complete civic address that can prove their residence.

This problem arises across the country, but is particularly evident in some regions of Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the territories.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Leader of the Government
    in the House of Commons
    and Minister for Democratic Reform
    Michael White
    Communications Assistant
    613-952-4930