Ending voter vouching would affect blind Canadians: CNIB
Published Tuesday, April 1, 2014 9:48PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 1, 2014 9:51PM EDT
Eliminating voter vouching in federal elections would make casting a ballot more difficult for blind and partially sighted Canadians who don’t have the required identification, a spokesperson for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind said Tuesday.
Diane Bergeron told a parliamentary committee that although the CNIB card can be used as ID at polling stations, not all blind and visually impaired people are registered with the organization.
“If vouching isn’t available, there are going to be some blind and partially sighted people in this country who will have a difficult time obtaining the identification they are going to need,” she said.
The Conservative government is pushing through the Fair Elections Act, or Bill C-23, which proposes controversial changes to election rules.
Currently, voters who don’t have one of the approved pieces of identification can have someone vouch for their identity at the polls. Bill C-23 would end that practice.
Critics say the move will disenfranchise aboriginals, seniors, students and low-income Canadians, among other groups, who may not meet the ID requirements. The Conservative government has been accused of using Bill C-23 to gain an unfair advantage in the 2015 federal election.
Canada’s chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand has expressed concern about ending the vouching practice, and opposition to Bill C-23 has been growing for weeks.
But Pierre Poilievre, the minister of democratic reform, has been defending the election reforms, saying they are fair and will help eliminate voter fraud.
Bergeron said Tuesday that blind and partially sighted Canadians already encounter obstacles at polling stations. Trying to cast the ballot in secret, as is everyone’s right, proves difficult when you must ask someone to check that it has been marked correctly, she said.
“The appropriate solution to this problem is to make available alternate voting processes such as voting by phone by internet or other accessible electronic means,” she said.
Bergeron said she would like to see wording in Bill C-23 that requires the chief electoral officer to test those alternative electronic voting options.
Still, she said the CNIB is “pleased to see that accessibility is being raised as an issue for consideration” as the bill is debated.