Truth Tracker: Concerns about non-citizens getting voter cards in the mail
TORONTO -- Several instances of non-citizens receiving voter information cards have gone viral, sparking concerns about fraudulent ballots and even allegations that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is trying to earn illegal votes.
This week, Paul Gabriel shared an image of a voter information card on Facebook, which contains information on how to vote, and can be presented alongside another valid piece of ID or proof of address in order to vote. He says the card, which is addressed to him, was sent to his PO Box in a small town northeast of Calgary.
The problem isGabriel says he is not a Canadian citizen, making him ineligible to vote.
“Here’s the problem, I can vote with this card and an Alberta Drivers licence, but I am NOT a Canadian citizen, and asking around some of my non-citizen friends, I am not alone,” reads Gabriel’s Facebook post.
“I am not going to vote because I am not legally entitled to vote, but others will. Your election is about to be stolen from you by illegal voters and we all know who gave them this ability and who they will vote for.”
Gabriel told CTV Edmonton he believes he was sent the card because the person doing his taxes checked the box indicating he was a Canadian citizen. He thinks the Canada Revenue Agency shared that information with Elections Canada, which resulted in the error.
"It is concerning for me because I can't imagine anywhere else where I would be allowed to vote on the strength of trust,” he said.
"I live like a Canadian and I will probably stay in Canada forever, but I will forever be a Brit.”
The post, which had been shared over 18,000 times at time of publishing, has garnered dozens of comments from users about how many people received voter information cards in error, and sparking concerns about fraudulent ballots.
Several users also raised allegations that the incumbent Liberal party may be behind a ploy to send non-citizens voters cards to earn illegal votes, one user leaving this comment on Gabriel’s Facebook post: “Trudeau with special friends.”
This isn’t the first example of an ineligible voter allegedly receiving a voter information card or voter cards being sent in error, raising concerns about Election Canada’s voter registration database.
A permanent resident living in Saskatchewan also told CTVNews.ca that he received a voter card last week. Despite having lived in Canada since his family immigrated from The Netherlands in 1977, this is the first time he received a voter card.
“My original reaction was to make a joke to my wife (who is a Canadian citizen) that I can somehow magically vote for the first time in my life,” the man, who did not want to be identified for privacy reasons, told CTVNews.ca by email.
“The card does say one must be a citizen to vote, but it also goes on to say that the card combined with ID is all that's needed to vote.”
Permanent residents do not have the right to vote in Canadian elections.
In an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca, Elections Canada stressed that being on the register is not a ticket to vote.
It is illegal to vote unless you’re at least 18-years-old and a Canadian citizen, even if you receive a voter information card.
That being said, Elections Canada cannot by law demand to see proof of citizenship and notes that there is no one single document that proves citizenship that every Canadian is obligated to hold (not everyone has a passport, for example).
With the enactment of Bill C-76, which made wide-spanning adjustments to Canada's election laws, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is now authorized to share with Elections Canada information on permanent residents and foreign nationals.
Should a non-citizen cast an ineligible ballot in the upcoming election, the agency would find out after by cross referencing ballots with the IRCC database.
“Following the election, we will be able to cross reference our data with IRCC’s data, and determine if anyone who is not a Canadian citizen cast a ballot. Cases will be referred to the Commissioner of Canada Elections when appropriate,” Elections Canada said.
Anyone who votes illegally could be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.
Concerns about fraud and irregularities in the electoral process would be addressed through a contested election proceeding, during which a judge would be required to determine whether there were any irregularities, fraud, or corrupt or illegal practices that affected the result of the election.
Any elector who was eligible to vote in a district or any candidate in that district may bring an application for a contested election before a judge.
An appeal from this decision can be brought to the Supreme Court of Canada.
What is Elections Canada doing to prevent this?
Elections Canada admits that the effort to maintain the voting register and manage over 500 million records presents a challenge.
According to numbers provided to CTVNews.ca, among the27.2 million eligible electors, every year:
- 2.9 million Canadians move;
- 100,000 become citizens;
- 400,000 turn 18; and
- 300,000 pass away.
“Currently, approximately 97 per cent of all eligible elections are on the register and overall the accuracy of the information it contains… is around 93 per cent,” reads the statement. “In both cases those numbers are the highest they have ever been.”
In April, Elections Canada identified approximately 103,000 suspected non-citizens in the register. The IRCC later revised the data, correcting the suspected number of non-citizens to 85,000, from which the agency removed approximately 74,000. Others were confirmed to be Canadian citizens.
“Elections Canada is continuing to analyze IRCC’s data and cross-reference it with other information to verify the eligibility of these individuals and remove those who are not eligible to vote,” the agency said.
Allegations of government influence are false
Beyond concerns about the accuracy of the voting register, the suggestion that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau would have influence over Elections Canada or who receives a voter card are false.
“Elections Canada is a non-partisan agency… it’s an independent body,” Holly Ann Garnett, assistant professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada, told CTVNews.ca by phone from Kingston, Ont.
“The government of the day really has very little influence in what [Elections Canada] does.”
Garnett, whose research revolves around electoral integrity and trust in electoral officials, notes that Elections Canada is well regarded in the international community.
She added that the bigger concern is the larger population of people that are eligible to vote but may not because they find the process confusing, or those who don’t have access to electoral information, such as Canada’s homeless population.
“If you are a non-citizen you have very little incentive to want to vote,” Garnett explained. “My greater concern would be that people who are eligible to cast a ballot aren’t because they don’t have the right ID, or don’t know the correct polling station.”
Those who have received voter cards by accident worry that the errors drive anti-immigrant sentiment, unfairly suggesting that immigrants want to vote illegally.
“The narrative, particularly from the right, seems to be that if given the chance, immigrants will break the law,” said the permanent resident living in Saskatchewan.
“A large part of the population automatically believes that immigrants who are not citizens will break the law and vote illegally. That kind of rhetoric is extremely harmful and needlessly vilifies all immigrants.”
With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Ben Cousins
Edited by CTVNews.ca producers Phil Hahn and Michael Stittle
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