Ask the CCLA: How can I vote without identification?

May 12, 2015

I’m a student, don’t have identification, and I heard the vouching rules have changed: how can I make sure that I can vote?

Previously, voters who did not have the ID required by Elections Canada could still vote through the “vouching system,” where a voter could have someone in their polling division vouch for their identity in order for them to cast a ballot. Some voters could also use their voter information card (the document you get in the mail saying where to vote) as a way to corroborate where they live.

Recent changes to the Canada Elections Act, dubbed The Fair Elections Act, has eliminated both of these previously permitted methods of meeting the identification requirements to vote.  Canadians no longer have the ability to use “vouching” or the Voter Information Card (VIC) to establish identity or residence. This is expected to cause problems for people who may be able to prove their identity, but not their current address–students whose addresses frequently change for example-and for groups more likely to lack the requisite identification — traditionally disadvantaged groups like the elderly, disabled, homeless, and Aboriginal people.

As a countermeasure, the government introduced an oath system to replace the practice of “vouching” a voter who has ID, but can’t prove a current address, can sign an oath attesting to where to they live (item 3 above). If another valid voter signs a second oath, essentially backing up the first voter’s address, the first voter is given a ballot. So, if you can prove who you are, but not where you live, this may be an option for you.

There are many forms of acceptable ID to prove who you are including: a student identity card, label on a prescription container, debit card, or library card. For the entire list of acceptable IDs with your name, and with your name and address, and for answers to FAQ’s, please visit the Elections Canada website. They also have information specifically to help students ensure they have the proper identification prior to an election. 

We hope that you find this information helpful. The information provided is current to January 2017, and consists of general legal information. It is not legal advice. CCLA does not take responsibility for information found on external websites, even where we have provided links to that information. Everyone’s legal situation is different. If you are facing a legal issue, we recommend that you seek independent legal advice. You can find a list of legal clinics and other resources to help you here.