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Voting – ins and outs

When it comes to Canada’s political system, there is only one place where you are guaranteed to find the right information – Elections Canada. This independent, nonpartisan agency reports directly to Parliament and is responsible for conducting federal elections and referendums, along with administering provisions of the Canada Elections Act. As the agency’s website (www.elections.ca) proudly displays, their mission is to ensure that Canadians can exercise their democratic rights to vote and be a candidate. So what else does Elections Canada, more formally known as the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, offer to Canadians?

Elections Canada has a wide-reaching mandate when it comes to Canadians’ democratic right to vote. Not only does the agency conduct all federal elections, byelections and referendums, it also monitors compliance with electoral legislation. This ensures that the electoral process is kept as fair and equitable as possible.

Electoral laws aren’t the only focus of Elections Canada, however. They also focus on education, promotion and research. For students, Elections Canada offers both education and information on how to exercise your right to vote. “We work with post-secondary institutions to help ensure that students have the information they need to be ready to vote,” says Diane Benson of Elections Canada. “This is especially important for students who are living away from home when an election is called.” Not only does it offer education programs on the electoral process itself, the agency conducts public information campaigns on topics including voter registration and how to vote. “To vote, electors must prove their identity and address,” Benson said. “Electors vote in the riding they consider to be their home. A student’s vote counts in the riding they consider their home, whether it’s where they live while at school or where they live while not at school. Once they choose which place they will consider their “home”, they have to prove their identity and residence,” explains Benson, “Note that having the right ID to prove address may be difficult for some students, so we encourage them to find out what they will need and to register to vote ahead of time.”

You aren’t left high and dry when it comes to looking for information, as it is all available on the Elections Canada website. For identification, providing one piece of government-issued ID that has your name, photo and current address is generally your best bet – however, you can also show two pieces of ID which include your name and current address, such as a healthcare card and phone bill, or a debit card and current bank statement. As for registration, once again it is as simple as visiting the Elections Canada website and following the links to the voter registration process. With a few short steps, including entering your name, date of birth, and address, the system will either confirm, or create, your voter registration for your chosen home. The website won’t ask for your SIN number, so be sure that you visit the correct website and only provide the information you are comfortable sharing. Finally, Elections Canada also provides support to other activities promoting the democratic process.

In addition to supporting the independent commissions which can adjust the boundaries of federal electoral districts, Elections Canada also carries out studies on alternative voting methods and provides assistance on electoral matters to electoral agencies in other countries. When it comes to supporting the democratic process, Elections Canada is right there with the information Canadian voters need.

Nicolas Brown

Issues Editor

 

photo cred: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/jj-mccullough/fair-elections-act_b_5061132.html

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