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Advocates on watch for voter identification problems

The people pushing a court challenge to new voter identification laws will use the October 14 election to gather evidence.

“If there's a silver lining, that's what it is,” said Jim Quail, a lawyer and executive director of the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, adding he expects there will be a hearing on the challenge later in the fall. “We were hoping to get into court before an election could take place.”

Under tightened voter identification laws, people will need either: a piece of government identification with a photo, name and address; two pieces of identification with their name, with at least one showing their address; or to swear an oath and be vouched for by an elector in the same polling division who has acceptable identification.

“A whole lot of people are going to lose the right to vote in this election,” said Quail. Requiring an address disenfranchises anyone who is homeless, he said, and others will have trouble too. “Anybody who has moved recently is going to have a problem because their address is likely to be out of date.”

Rose Henry, a Victoria housing activist and city council candidate, is one of the clients for the court challenge. “I think it sucks,” she said when asked about the timing of the hearing. “People deserve to have any court hearing in a reasonable amount of time.”

Stephen Harper's Conservative government brought in the regulation change, and Henry said the Conservatives are the most likely to benefit. “Most of their supporters have a house, have identification,” she said.

People should try to vote despite the new rules, she said, and anyone who is turned away should get in touch with Quail or her.

The B.C. Liberal party made similar changes this year to provincial voting laws.

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