CARP Opposes Fair Elections Act, Bill C-23 at Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

CARP opposed the Fair Elections Act, Bill C-23 at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in Ottawa on Monday April 7, 2014.

Read our media release on the Fair Elections Act here: VAST MAJORITY OF CARP MEMBERS REJECT FAIR ELECTIONS ACT

Susan Eng, the VP of Advocacy for CARP, made the following recommendations on the Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23) to the Standing Committee:


Thank you for the opportunity of addressing Bill C-23 the Fair Elections Act.

CARP is a national non-profit, non-partisan organization with 300,000 members across the country in 56 local chapters. The average age of our members is about 69. And like most Canadians in this demographic, they vote regularly and have a deep commitment to our democratic institutions, especially something as central as the electoral process.

In preparation for my remarks today, we polled our members for their reaction to some of the major provisions of the Bill and over 3,600 members responded with a very clear message:

  • The vast majority of CARP members 80 percent – disapprove of the Fair Elections Act fully two-thirds in the strongest terms.
  • They see it as diminishing democracy and
  • They want it withdrawn or amended significantly.

On specific provisions:

  • CARP members see reduced voter participation as a bigger problem than voter fraud by a factor of 4:1 [63%:15%]
  • 72% do not think that vouching is a source of voter fraud and 75% think that banning vouching will suppress voter participation
  • 80% disapprove of prohibiting the Chief Electoral Officer from promoting voter turnout and reject the notion that such promotion can lead to bias.

It is worth noting the specific part of the mandate being eliminated:

18. (1) The Chief Electoral Officer may implement public education and information programs to make the electoral process better known to the public, particularly to those persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights.

We recommend that this mandate be restored

  • 83% think the Bill does not do enough to deal with robocalls;

We recommend that records be kept of the script as well as to whom the robocalls were directed -for 5 years not just one year

  • 89% disapprove of allowing political parties to nominate polling officials and allowing the party with the most votes to nominate the central poll supervisor >> Given this strong reaction to the proposal, we recommend that all election officers be appointed based on merit and not be nominated by candidates, electoral district associations or parties.
  • 73% disapprove of raising campaign contribution limits

On the specific issue of vouching and using Voter Identification Cards:

  • one tenth of members (10%) have either had to have someone vouch for them when they voted (4%), or knew someone who had to be vouched (6%)
  • one third used the Voter Identification Card (VIC 34%) the last time they voted

Given the commitment to voting from CARP members and older Canadians generally, it reasonable to suggest that CARP members themselves would be inconvenienced by the elimination of vouching and use of the Voter Identification Cards but not disenfranchised they would find the necessary identification to allow them to vote. However, they are clearly concerned about others, especially those in seniors homes or long term care.

Our Edmonton CARP chapter received a letter from a woman on behalf of her 97-year old mother in long term care which letter she has asked to be conveyed to this Committee. The mother is frail but fully capable of voting and did so regularly with the Homes workers vouching for her. She no longer has a drivers licence, the Alberta Health Card does not have her address and her daughter handles all her banking and other needs so all her mail goes to her daughter. To be able to vote, she now has to ask the Home to issue an Attestation of Residence for her -which will also be necessary for every other resident of the Home wishing to vote.

The option of vouching in such a case has the obvious advantage of leaving little to no opportunity for fraud, especially as many nursing homes and seniors residences have a polling station right in the building. We recommend that vouching be reinstated and the use of Voter Identification Cards be made permanent. Having well trained and non-partisan polling officials will protect against irregularities.

CARP members are avid voters and clearly see this Bill as detrimental to voter participation, detrimental to a fair and transparent electoral process and to democracy itself. As such, we believe that at a minimum, the Bill should be amended to reverse the provisions highlighted above. Otherwise, Bill C-23 should be withdrawn.

Thank you,

Susan Eng
VP of Advocacy for CARP