Chief Electoral Officer Explains Issues in ‘Fair Elections Act’

Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand, gave a stark warning to the Conservative government’s proposed election law changes as he alleged that they will disenfranchise voters, give political parties advantages over others, allow them too much access of information, hinder the power of investigators and muzzle what he can say publicly. Myrand appeared to give a testimony to the parliamentary committee on Thursday, which was only possible as part of a deal to end an opposition filibuster meant to slow the bill’s progress.

During his remarks, Mr. Mayrand gave elaborate an explanation of highlighted issues, primarily with the changes aimed to eliminate vouching, i.e. a process allowing someone to swear to anyone else’ identity at a voting booth, and ban the use of voter information cards as a form of identification. Mayrand stated that vouching is used frequently by those who can prove their identity but not their residence, including seniors, students and First Nations voters.

As he addressed the committee, Mr. Mayrand stated that “we can expect a significant proportion of them would not be able to vote under the rules proposed.” While rejecting the government’s notion that vouching is too vulnerable to fraud, Mayrand alleged that “it is essential to understand that the main challenge for our electoral democracy is not voter fraud, but voter participation. I do not believe that if we eliminate vouching and the [information card] as a proof of address, we will have in any way improved the integrity of the voting process. However, we will have taken away the ability of many qualified electors to vote.”

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