The government's proposed fair elections act will make it harder for some people to vote, by eliminating vouching and the use of voter information cards as ID.
If some suggested amendments to the bill are accepted, parts of the voting process may become easier.
If Bill C-23 doesn't change, here's what a voter needs to know when he or she enters a polling station in 2015, the scheduled date of the next federal election.
1) Do you need to have photo ID?
However, most people use their driver's licence, which is government-issued and has a photo and an address. Elections Canada says 85 per cent of voters use this method and zip through the voting process in three to five minutes.
2) What do you need, if you don't have a driver's licence?
You need two pieces of ID, both of which must have your name and one of which must also have your address. Elections Canada has a list of 39 different kinds of ID that are acceptable. A Senate committee has suggested the new bill be amended to allow electronic versions of utility bills as ID rather than the original hard copies currently required.
3) If you're on the voters list, do you still need to show ID?
The voters list used on election day is drawn up from a master list which Elections Canada constantly updates, using information from income tax returns, driver's licence applications, motor vehicle registrations, and provincial statistics data and voters lists.
4) What if you're not on the voters list, but have the required ID?
You can register to vote at the polling station by swearing an oath and signing a form attesting to your name, age, address and citizenship.
5) Do you have to prove citizenship?
In order to exercise your constitutional right to vote, you must be over 18, be a resident of the polling division you're voting in and be a Canadian citizen. But you don't have to produce a birth certificate or passport. Elections Canada will take your word that you're a citizen.
6) What if you're a senior in a home, a resident of a homeless shelter, or an aboriginal living on a reserve and you have no ID with an address?
You can ask the administrator of the institution or reserve to write a letter of attestation that you live there, but only if the administrator is willing to do it. A Senate committee amendment suggests the new bill should mandate that the letters be provided, if requested.
7) What if your address is simply RR 1 or a postal box, and your ID does not contain a unique address with a street name and number?
If you are on the voters list you can vote, but your ID must match the information on the list. The returning officer at the poll has tools to geolocate where you live. All rural addresses and postal boxes are assigned street addresses so that emergency services can find you.
If you're not on the list you can register on the spot with your ID, and, again, you will be located.
Well before you set off for the polling station, you can check online with Elections Canada by typing in your postal code and name to see if you are on the voters list.
8) Can you vote if Elections Canada tells you someone with the same name as yours has already voted?
You can vote if you have ID and if you swear a written oath on a form that outlines the penalties for voter fraud.
9) What if you have no ID because your purse or wallet has been stolen, or you've just moved and have no utility bill, mortgage, lease, moving bill or anything proving your address?
You may be out of luck. In past elections, a parent or friend who lives in the same polling division could vouch for you — that is, swear an oath that you are who you say you are and live where you say you live. However, vouching is banned in the proposed legislation.
Defenders of the bill say people should make an effort to obtain a cellphone bill, or get some notarized ID with the new address on it.
The new legislation, currently before the Commons and the Senate, puts the onus on the voter to make sure he or she is qualified to vote by putting in some work before heading to the ballot box.
But those efforts, defined by some as "jumping through hoops," may be time-consuming, onerous and subject to the capriciousness of officials. Some voters, at least for one election cycle, just might have to resign themselves to not voting.
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Costas Menegakis, MP for Richmond Hill
"I love the bill the way it is."
Steven Fletcher, MP for Charleswood - St. James - Assiniboia - Headingley
"It's a very good piece of legislation and I will be voting for it with enthusiasm."
Gordon O'Connor, MP for Carleton-Mississippi Mills
"There might be minor changes, but yes, I support it...I'm anticipating there might be some little minor changes, but in essence, I support the bill. People should identify themselves when they're voting. I don't believe in vouching, okay. That's the big issue here. I don't support that."
Chris Warkentin, MP for Peace River
"I certainly support the Fair Elections Act, absolutely...I think that it's great legislation, and it will be supported by the government members."
Larry Miller, MP for Bruce–Grey–Owen Sound
Miller: "I will support the bill, yes." <strong>Q: Whether it's changed or not or?</strong> Miller: "Yes, because no bill, doesn't matter what, is ever perfect. But I think that it's a step in the right direction."
Bob Dechert, MP for Mississauga—Erindale
"I'm supporting the bill, and I think it's a good bill. I think it's making some changes that are necessary in our elections laws."
Greg Rickford, MP for Kenora
Declined to answer. "Hmm...," he said as he walked away munching on a chocolate chip cookie.
UP NEXT: Pierre Poilievre Through The Years
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises in the House of Commons to apologize for making an obscene gesture yesterday, in Ottawa Wednesday June 14, 2006. (CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson)
Ottawa-area Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre smiles as he talks with reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Tuesday Feb. 27, 2007. Poilievre referred to "extremist elements" in the Liberal party that want to ease anti-terror laws and shut down the Air India inquiry last week.(CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson) Canada
Democratic Reform Minister Peter Van Loan (right), with Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre looking on, makes an announcement on the introduction of the Accountability with Respect to Loans legislation at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec across the river from Ottawa, Tuesday May 8, 2007.(CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand) CANADA ,
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises in the House of Commons to apologize for saying in a radio interview Wednesday that native people need to learn the value of hard work more than they need residential schools compensation, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday June 12, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson
With copies of the Conservative accountabilty booklets, Conservative M.P. Pierre Poilievre waits for the start of the Commons House affairs committee looking into allegations of Tory election spending misconduct during the last election, on Monday Sept. 10, 2007 in Ottawa. (CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand)
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks in the House of Commons during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday June 16, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, leaves a news conference after speaking with the media about the gun registry in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday September 14, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday October 15, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre poses with a bust of Sir John A. Macdonald after announcing the former Bank of Montreal building would be renamed in honour of Canada's first prime minister during a ceremony in Ottawa, Ont., Wednesday January 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday February 28, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre holds up copies of legislation as he responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Friday October 19, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Pierre Poilievre is sworn in as the minister of state for democratic reform during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, July 15, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
The Honourable Pierre Poilievre, Minister of State (Democratic Reform), poses for a group photo after the swearing in of the federal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday, July 15, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Minister of State Pierre Poilievre stands in the House of Commons during Question Period, in Ottawa Friday, February 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Minister of State (Democratic Reform) Pierre Poilievre responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, February 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
UP NEXT: The Fair Election Act
"The Fair Elections Act will ensure everyday citizens are in charge of democracy, by putting special interests on the sidelines and rule-breakers out of business," says Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre. Read more about the Fair Elections Act <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/harper-government-introduces-fair-elections-act" target="_blank">here.</a>
Crackdown On Illegal Robocalls
The legislation proposes a <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-protecting-voters-rogue-callers" target="_blank">mandatory public registry</a> for mass automated election calls, jail time for those convicted of impersonating an elections official, and "increased penalties for deceiving people out of their votes."
No More 'Vouching' For Your Buddy
In the interest of cracking down on voter fraud, the bill would prohibit the practice whereby one Canadian vouches for another's identity at a polling station. In fact, voter information cards will no longer be accepted as proof of identity. <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-fair-elections-act-cracking-down-voter-fraud" target="_blank">But the government says voters will still have 39 forms of authorized ID to choose from in order to prove their identity and residence.</a>
Independence For The Elections Commissioner
The Commissioner of Canada Elections office, responsible for enforcing the elections law, will be moved under the mantle of the public prosecutor's office, not Elections Canada. Conservatives believe this will give the commissioner <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-independent-commissioner-sharper-teeth-longer-reach-and-freer-hand" target="_blank">more independence</a> as the Chief Electoral Officer will no longer be able to direct him to carry out investigations. In future, the commissioner would be appointed by the director of public prosecutions to a non-renewable, seven-year term. The legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/02/04/fair-elections-act-poilievre-robocalls_n_4723565.html" target="_blank">also bars</a> former political candidates, political party employees, ministerial or MP staffers or employees of Elections Canada from being named commissioner. <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-independent-commissioner-sharper-teeth-longer-reach-and-freer-hand" target="_blank">Tories believe the legislation will give the commissioner "sharper teeth" and a "longer reach" to seek out stronger penalties for offences.</a>
More Donations Welcome
The ceiling for individual political donations would be raised to $1,500 from $1,200 and party spending limits would be increased by five per cent. Union and corporate donations are still banned, though.
The West Won't Have To Wait
A long-standing ban on the <a href="http://www.democraticreform.gc.ca/eng/content/backgrounder-fair-elections-act-respecting-democratic-elections-defending-freedom-speech" target="_blank">premature transmission of election results</a> will be lifted, meaning voters in Western Canada will get to know how things are shaping up out East before heading to the polls. Broadcasters can share results from Eastern Canada on election night, even if the polls aren't closed in the West. The government believes this change will uphold free speech.
New Rules On Political Loans
The legislation would raise the amount candidates can <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/02/04/conservatives-unveil-fair-elections-act-which-they-say-will-crack-down-on-illegal-robocalls/" target="_blank">contribute to their own campaigns to $5,000.</a> Leadership contestants will be allowed to give their own campaign up to $25,000.
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John Patrick Stanley