MODERNIZATIONS WOULD ENHANCE INTEGRITY OF MANITOBA'S ELECTORAL SYSTEM: STEFANSON
– – – Creation of Permanent Voter Registry, Proof of Identity Requirements would Bring Manitoba In Line With Other Jurisdictions
Proposed changes to The Elections Amendment Act would create a permanent and regularly updated database of eligible voters for all future provincial elections, increasing the efficiency and accuracy of Manitoba's voter system while ensuring Elections Manitoba retains the ability and authority to verify the database with targeted outreach to voters, Justice Minister Heather Stefanson announced today.
“Manitoba is currently the only jurisdiction in Canada that does not have a register of voters,” said Stefanson. “This legislation would establish a more accurate voters list and significantly reduce the need to enumerate Manitobans before every election. This modernized approach would allow for better services to voters.”
The new database would be based on the final voters list from the 2016 general election and would be regularly updated with information from federal, provincial and municipal sources, as well as through direct updates from voters. In order to achieve a more complete list, information related to 16 and 17-year-old residents of Manitoba could be added to the register in recognition of the fact they may become eligible to vote within a few years, the minister noted.
Elections Manitoba would have the authority to carry out targeted registration programs before an election is called to ensure the database is as current as possible. The registrar would also be required to be updated following the revision of electoral boundaries.
Once registered to vote, individuals would be assigned a unique identifier that would remain the same from election to election that would assist in distinguishing voters from one another. The legislation would allow registered voters to remain on the permanent list without requiring them to register again for future elections, though voters could choose to contact Elections Manitoba to opt out of the database without affecting their right to vote.
Those in the database would receive an information card before election day that must indicate the address of the voter's voting station, the voting hours on election day, and the dates, locations and hours of advance voting stations in the voter's electoral division.
The legislation also would require voters to present proof of identity and address when they vote or to make a declaration about their address when voting. Similar to the proof of identification requirements for municipal elections in Winnipeg and federal elections across Manitoba, a voter could present a wide range of documents to establish his or her identity. In addition, the legislation would allow a voter who is on the voters list, but who cannot produce the necessary documentation to establish their identity, to vote if another resident of the same electoral division (with the required identification) were to vouch for them.
“Manitoba voters are required to show identification to vote in federal elections, during municipal elections in our province's two largest cities, and when voting in advance polls during provincial elections,” said Stefanson. “This legislation would ensure accessibility, consistency and predictability for voters while also improving upon the integrity of our democratic process.”
Other proposed changes in the act include:
requiring schools to have an in-service on the day of a fixed-date general election in order to better protect the safety of children on election day when hundreds of adult strangers have access to the building;
allowing a person who is not on the voter list to be added to the list on election day and permitted to vote after taking an oath and producing the required identification;
permitting absentee voters to cast a ballot for a registered political party instead of a candidate, allowing them to vote before nominations close; and
allowing the chief electoral officer to make changes to Manitoba's voting processes after consulting with an all-party advisory committee established for this purpose, and the Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs would also have to approve any changes.