Essex Councillor Sherry Bondy at the June 20, 2016 regular meeting of council. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

Councillor calls out Essex for ‘restrictive’ election rule

Essex town Councillor Sherry Bondy thinks the Town of Essex should rethink some of the rules for getting on the voters’ list.

The town’s municipal calendar states anyone not on the voters’ list for the October 22 election will need a passport or birth certificate to prove Canadian citizenship.

Most municipalities accept two pieces of identification including a drivers’ license.

“So, that worries me a little bit because a lot of people when they go to get on the voters’ list, they just go from work. They won’t bring their passport with them, or they won’t bring their birth certificate,” said Bondy. “Some people may not even have those documents anymore.”

The revelation prompted some digging on Bondy’s part. She said there is no such rule in many other municipalities.

“I called the Town of LaSalle. I called the Town of Kingsville, and I looked into how provincial, and federal elections are run, and none of them seem to be as restrictive as the Town of Essex,” she said.

Bondy said when she inquired about the rules in Kingsville, she was told voters who do not have a passport or birth certificate could sign an affidavit.

In an email sent to BlackburnNews.com from Bondy to CAO Donna Hunter, she wrote, “I feel if we enforce this, we are discriminating and encouraging low voter turnout.”

“Engage the residents. Get them out. It’s not acceptable to have a 42 per cent [voter turnout],” Bondy said.

Bondy’s email to town administration requests the rules be reviewed.

Meantime,

Robert Auger, the town’s Clerk, is clarifying the process.

“If someone is already on the voters list and looking to vote then there are a variety of identification documents that will be accepted at the polls as part of confirming that they are the same person as listed on the voters list,” he said. “However if someone is not on the voters list and is seeking to be added, then the clerks/returning officers have a legal obligation to exercise due diligence in trying to ensure that the people who come to the polls on election day are eligible to vote.

Auger said under the current Municipal Elections Act one of the eligibility requirements to vote in a municipal election is Canadian citizenship.

“As part of our first level of due diligence we ask and we will continue to ask people who are seeking to be added to the voters list to provide documentation that demonstrates Canadian citizenship such as a passport , birth certificate or certificate of Canadian citizenship,” Auger said. “I can’t comment on other Municipalities’ policies but certainly from a due diligence perspective we believe this is the best and most reliable method of demonstrating Canadian citizenship. However if the person seeking to be added to the voters list cannot produce evidence of Canadian citizenship then there is  the option for the person to provide a statutory declaration in which the person declares that they are a Canadian Citizen. Once this declaration is provided and assuming they are eligible to vote then that person would be added to the voters list. This would be our secondary level of due diligence because it is our preference to actually see the documents that demonstrate citizenship.”

Auger does not feel this is an unreasonable request, nor has the town had significant issues in past elections.