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Discrimination at the Polls?

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.


This morning my boyfriend and I went to vote at the poll in Toronto.  We actually had voting cards and were on the registration list, a rarity for most people our age, but because the last election was so recent we were on the list for once. Now, according to Elections Ontario, a voting card is proof of residence. However, his driver’s license claimed that he lives with his parents in North York. Like many young people who move a lot, he uses his parents address for mailing and the like as its not worth it to update his address every year or so. The people at the driver’s license office were fine with this when he asked. But not the voting people. No, they didn't like this discrepancy and said he needed to return with a bill from Bell or some kind of mail.  He got the mail and managed to vote, but the man at the desk told him that cops might get him in trouble if they caught him having a different address on his license (even if its his parents). Great, lets threaten people with the police when they go to vote. The other thing that is messed up is that they never checked my ID, and my driver's license says I live in Oshawa and I voted with no problems.  I can't help but attribute this to the fact that I am unambiguously white where he looks Mediterranean or Middle Eastern.  

Elections Canada is pretty clear that your voting card is proof of residence and the driver's license is proof of ID, but the supervisor I talked to still insisted that he get a phone bill or something.  How does this make sense? Why is a bill from a private company more valid that mail from the government?  I'm offended by their "We make voting easy" campaign. Its easy for some people, maybe. I'm growing more and more concerned about the slow erosion of even the limited 'democratic rights' that that we have.

Of course, landed immigrants can't vote at all, nor can residents without status, people without secure housing or people without ID. But even given those very clear discriminations, the way that voting is administered discriminates against renters and people who move a lot-  basically poor people.   I don't even want to discuss our limited choices at the polls (would you like your Capitalism blue, red, orange or green flavoured?), the first-past-the-post system or the money required to run a successful campaign.  Elections are failing even on a bourgeois democratic level. 

The decision to stop enumerating - that is going door to door to register people- means that there is a greater burden of proof on people who move frequently to prove that they can vote. Which is unfair as poor people sometimes have trouble getting ID as user fees can be a barrier, and they might not drive or have the money for a passport. This is almost like a sneaky way of returning to the old 'property owners only' voting rules that . 200,000 people are official resdients in Toronto but not citizens and they don't get to vote. But in municipal elections people who own property but don't even live in the city are allowed to vote. Tenants only got full voting rights in municipal elections in 1972! 

Did you have issues at the polling station today? Did you know you would have issues and so didn't bother going? Did you see someone else having issues? Post here in the comments section.




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Megan Kinch (Megan Kinch)
Toronto Ontario
Member since December 2009


is a writer and editor with the Toronto Media Co-op.

588 words


I'm white, and went to vote,

I'm white, and went to vote, despite not having a voter registration card.

I'm living with an immigrant family from West Asia, and the mom went to vouch for me, as I heard that they'd relaxed the rules about having something with your address on it. I don't have a lease and I'm paying rent under the table, but I should still be able to vote, goddamnit! 

So anyway, I go there, she vouches for me, they (caribbean middle aged guy and somali young guy)  say they don' t know if I can vote, and have to ask the (old white couple) bosses if I can. I told them yes I was able to vote, because I'd heard they'd relaxed the restrictions so homeless people could vote, you only needed someone to vouch for you who was registered. So they ask they ask me if I intend to reside in Ottawa or Ontario for the next few years. I say that this is my intention, they fill out a form, I check the boxes saying "don't keep my information', and i went to vote. The old white couple said they get this problem a lot with students, but seemed to know how to handle it.

I don't want them keeping my information and I didn't want to get mail at that address, because I'm planning on emigrating, and my emigration requires me to abide at the same residence as my partner, in toronto. I'm glad I was able to vote, but I've heard that people at other polls weren't similarly informed. If I hadn't specifically known about the relaxation of the rules, I would probably have been discouraged and not voted at all. I'm glad I knew my stuff, and that someone at the voter  registration place did too, otherwise I wouldn't have voted.

I was not the voters list nor

I was not the voters list nor did I have any "proof of residence" but i was able to vote with just my SIN card....nothing else

that's really bizarre Mark.

that's really bizarre Mark. you voted with just a SIN card and they wouldn't let my boyfriend vote even with a voters card and a drivers licence?  This system is really bizarre and inconsistent.

During polls we come to

During polls we come to listen such stories.  Unfortunately, in each of these cases the polls officials are held guilt for no fault of theirs.  Few would like to own their mistakes such forgeting to bring along necessary documentary proof.  Poll dates are important public events, it is the duty of every citizen to bring all the documatary proof the polling booth.  Eviction Process

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