Democratic differences

Pundits (particularly American pundits) like to talk about the importance of holding elections. The thing is that \”holding an election\” is actually not a single thing. It is a process that takes place over time. In the United States it takes place over a very long time and the process of registering to vote and then casting one\’s vote is far more complex in the United States than it is in some other countries.

My suspicions, from living for years in the U.S., is that most Americans don\’t get how their election/voting process looks to the rest of the world because they don\’t have a clear sense of how elections are run in other countries.

So this is a short description of what this voter did to get onto the voter\’s list for the provincial election on October 6.


I did nothing. I didn\’t pick up the phone, I didn\’t answer the doorbell, I didn\’t fill something out to put in the mail.

I did nothing.

Some number of years (several elections) ago some nice people knocked on the door and asked if anyone old enough (and eligible) to vote lived in the house. I wasn\’t home but mmySpouse gave my name as well as hir\’s.

That\’s how I got on the voting list.

Now every time there is an election I get a card in the mail reminding me of the date of the election and the location of my poll. It also lists eight advance polls (held in a variety of lcoations over 8 days.) I also have the option of voting at the returning office–which is also open on Sunday. All I need to do to vote is take with me the card I received in the mail and one piece of ID. Acceptable forms of ID range from Canadian passports, to birth certificates, health cards, armed forces IDs, and social insurance cards. Among the forms of acceptable ID are many that are available without cost.

I didn\’t need to go anywhere to get onto the voters list. The only questions asked of me (or rather of mmySpouse) were a) was I a Canadian citizen, b) was I eighteen or older and c) where did I live.

How hard would it be to get on the voters list I had just moved into the neighbourhood? Not very.

You can vote if you are in prison. You can vote if you are homeless. You can vote if you are confined to a hospital bed.

In short, it is the job of the government to make it possible (and safe) for you to vote.

And that, in my opinion, should be step one in running an election.


5 thoughts on “Democratic differences

  1. This must be one of those things that varies from state to state. To register here in New York, all I had to do was check a box on the form when I got/renewed my driver's license and indicate which parties' primaries I wished to vote in. After that, it's much as you describe for Canada: I receive a notice a few weeks before each election telling me where my polling place is. I go there with I.D. and vote. Granted, I need to know my voting district — which is printed on the notice I received — to know which line to stand in.Is it more complicated than that in the states you've been in, then?

  2. Jarred there is a lot in the news these days about (mostly Republican) state legislatures moving to make it harder to register to vote.The thing in Canada is that we don't even have to do what you did. I have never had to check a box on any form and I don't have to indicate anything about party.And many states are moving towards IDs that are costly for those who are poor.The funny thing is that voting regulations have become even \”more friendly\” here in the last decade as some American states are moving to \”tighten\” them.

  3. We (UK) get a form each year saying \”these are the people registered at your address, please let us know whether there are any changes.\” If there are no changes you can do it online, or you can use phone or post.You can also opt to have a postal vote by default, and to have your name left off the Edited Register (which is sold to companies).I haven't voted non-postally for ages and can't remember the ID requirement. I'm sure there must have been some.How long have your prisoners been allowed to vote? Over here there is an Immense Kerfuffle about the proposal – which is not helped by the fact that it's an EU-inspired idea – because a lot of people still seem to think that not obeying every single law means you're not allowed to have a say in any of them.I was a bit startled to discover our prisoners can't vote, actually (Britain In My Head is considerably more civilised than the reality, in ohsomany ways).- julie paradox

  4. They've actually tightened up the ID rules somewhat now–you need both proof of address and photo ID. At any rate, that was true of the last election. I worked as a poll clerk, and we had a lot of really upset non-English-speakers who didn't understand why their 40-year-old citizenship cards with no address weren't sufficient ID. They generally lacked sufficient English to understand our explanations, and many of them were seniors who were physically unable to go back home, get more ID, and bring it back to the polling station. The poll supervisor ended up ruling that if the voter spontaneously gave their address as what was written on the voters' list, they could vote.

  5. Oh, the rules I mentioned are right off their website. All you need to prove residence is the card you got in the mail and your health card (which basically everyone in Ontario has). Both of which are free.There are a plethora of other forms of proof you can use.When I was a poll worker I remember the biggest problem was that people didn't bring in the card they got in the mail and so they couldn't prove where they lived. In the US in many states it is becoming hard to vote without id that many people don't have and which cost a lot of money to get (if you are poor).

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