Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Good for Mayrand

If the Elections Act doesn't have a requirement for facial identification, why should Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand have to add one? Good for Elections Canada for not backing down on the niqab decision:

"Elections Canada refused Monday to bow to political pressure and force veiled women to uncover their faces before voting, putting the blame on Parliament and the Harper government for the legal confusion surrounding the issue.

But MPs from all parties continued to put the heat on the agency, calling on Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand to reverse his decision or appear before committee if he refuses.

At a news conference Monday, Mr. Mayrand said his duty is to apply the law, explaining that nothing in the Elections Act forces voters to show their faces before casting a ballot. He said the government was twice informed of this fact this year, including last May before the current act became law."

The usual suspects are foaming in feverish alarm -- panicsville! Muslims voting, with their faces covered!? Maybe terrists! Mayrand is getting it from all sides because he's, uh, enforcing electoral law... the bastard!

ID requirements are pretty straightforward, but the whole focus on facial recognition and picture ID is laughable. I've done poll supervising and I can assure you that only a psychotically attentive poll clerk even looks at the picture on a drivers' license. A voter's face is irrelevant; at a busy poll, there's no way the clerks could be expected to remember every face they see. (The fact that most poll clerks are either dancing on the edge of senility or just not overburdened with brains highlights the near-impossibility of the task.) Trust me, after a few hours, everyone might as well be wearing a niqab.

And how many niqab-clad voters are there anyway? In 10 years of poll work, I've only had one, and pre-9/11 it wasn't an issue.
Hate to say it, but I think there's more than a touch of racism pushing all the panic buttons on this. Not only that, but I'm not sure I like the idea of picture ID anyway, because anytime something like that gets started, it usually means disenfranchisement of poorer voters.