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Government case for “Fair” Elections Act unconvincing, says Council of Canadians

Court representatives

TORONTO – Following a day of strong evidence from expert witnesses yesterday on how the Fair Elections Act will suppress votes, government lawyers presented their rebuttal today.

The Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students, and three individual voters are seeking an injunction to restore the use of voter information cards as valid identification for the 2015 election. The cards were used as ID by 400,000 voters in the 2011 election, but the Fair Elections Act eliminates their use for this purpose, which could suppress the votes of tens of thousands of people.

“If there was a problem with voter information cards in the last election, why was Elections Canada planning on expanding their use?” asked Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

The government’s legal strategy included attempting to undermine the credibility of Harry Neufeld, a respected elections expert who has served as B.C.’s chief electoral officer and a consultant with Elections Canada; spending a lot of time on minor irregularities with the use of voter information cards, but failing to show such issues were widespread; and relying on an outdated parliamentary committee report from 2006 on voter information cards rather than noting the actual results of their use in the 2011 election.

“We're deeply disturbed by the government’s claim that it’s not their role to make voting easier,” said Council of Canadians democracy campaigner Dylan Penner. “We disagree. And apparently so does the chief electoral officer, given Elections Canada’s work to promote voting and make it more accessible, which the Fair Elections Act has restricted.”

A ruling on whether an injunction will be granted is anticipated by July 20.

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IMAGE: Jessica McCormick (former Canadian Federation of Students chairperson and applicant), Anne-Marie Roy (Deputy Chairperson, CFS), Bilan Arte (National Chairperson, CFS), Maude Barlow (Council of Canadins), Steven Shrybman (Sack Goldblatt Mitchell), Louis Sokolov (SGM), Lucy Chislett (SGM), Dylan Penner (Council of Canadians).