Casts ballot in Trinity-Spadina
Jan. 25, 2006. 01:00 AM
An American student and budding journalist who wanted to expose flaws in Canada's voter registration system says he can't believe how easy it was to register and vote Monday.
Peter Cunningham, 21, is from Michigan and studying at the University of Toronto on a student visa. While volunteering at a downtown polling station during the campaign, he said, he was shocked to learn proof of citizenship wasn't required for electors whose names were not on the voters list. He said he decided to conduct an experiment and went to a polling station in Trinity-Spadina riding, where he lives. Since he wasn't on the voters list, Cunningham said he was asked to show identification bearing his name, signature and address. He said he presented officials his student card and a hydro bill before he was handed a ballot. According to Cunningham, he was never asked his age or whether he was a citizen.
"Simply put, the rules for registration are too lax," he wrote in a piece he sent to the Star hoping it would be published. "... Non-registered voters need not provide proof of their citizenship while those who are already registered can cast their votes without even providing election officials with ID," he continued. "They simply need to point to their name on a list and provide a signature. The potential for fraud is so immense that ignoring it would suggest nothing short of incompetence on the part of election officials."
Liberal incumbent Tony Ianno, who lost his seat in Trinity-Spadina, wouldn't comment. Newly elected New Democrat Olivia Chow could not be reached for comment.
Elections Canada spokesperson Nathalie De Montigny said it is illegal for anyone who is not a Canadian citizen to vote. "The law is the law. You have to be 18 years old as of election day and a Canadian citizen to vote.... "
Anyone providing false information could be charged and fined up to $5,000 or jailed for five years or both, De Montigny continued, adding she couldn't comment on the specific case.