Is the COVID-19 pandemic a godsend for those who wish to commit voter fraud? It could very well be.
By way of explanation, I visited the advance polling station a few days ago in my riding of Oak Ridges-Aurora-Richmond Hill.
Let it be known that Elections Canada very much wants you to wear a face mask when entering a polling station, what with the pandemic and whatnot. Safety first, after all.
Yet, I couldn’t help but notice that a face mask very much hides the identity of the wearer. Don a pair of sunglasses and a baseball cap, and one’s face is almost as concealed as if one were wearing a burqa.
Speaking of burqas, you might recall how back in 2015, we did a test in which I went to an advance polling station draped head-to-toe in a burqa. Only my eyes were visible. Yes, I was asked to provide government-issued photo identification (in this case, my driver’s licence) but crucially, I was not asked to unveil to prove I was who I was claiming to be. Maybe the scrutineers were terrified of coming across as being culturally insensitive?
But here we are six years later, and the problem of confirming one’s identity has further ramped up, thanks to PPE masks.
Indeed, I was surprised to learn that I was not asked to unmask to confirm that my face matched the photograph on my driver’s licence.
In fact, I even volunteered to unmask, but was inexplicably told that wouldn’t be necessary (even though I was also eye-concealing glasses and a hair-concealing cap).
I reached out to Elections Canada to find out what the policy is. My question was as follows: I observed people voting with masks, eyeglasses, hats, etc. I'm wondering why such people are not asked to unmask to indicate that they are the same people depicted in the photo ID being presented.
Under the Canada Elections Act, voters must prove who they are and where they live. It does not require that they provide photo ID or that they reveal their faces to election workers. Electors can prove their identity and address in a variety of ways:
1) with a driver's license or other government-issued photo ID showing their name and address;
2) with two separate documents, for example, a healthcare card with their name and hydro bill with their name and address;
3) by having someone vouch for their identity and/or address and making a solemn declaration. The voucher must know the voter personally and appear on the list of electors in the same polling station as the voter. The voucher must not have vouched for another voter or have had their own identity and residence vouched for.
If voters cannot prove their identity and address, they cannot vote.
Elections Canada’s Policy on Voter Identification when Registering and Voting in Person in federal Electoral Events was last updated on September 4, 2020 and is available on our website. With respect to face coverings, that policy provides that 'An elector may vote with their face covered by establishing proof of their identity and residence under any of the three options listed above. An elector is not required to remove their face covering when establishing proof of their identity and residence.'
It's important to note that there are a number of safeguards and post-election verification processes in place to ensure the integrity of the vote is upheld.
But still, the question arises: unless the person takes off the face covering — be it a burqa or a COVID-19 mask – how can one’s identity truly be verified? Baffling. And in this day and age of sensitivity regarding voter fraud, it’s downright disturbing…