Saturday, October 27, 2007

Canadians Should Have to Lift Their Veil Before They Drop Their Ballot

Veiled voting not compatible with democracy

Amidst the increasing controversy regarding the issue of veils and voting, the Conservative government has introduced a bill that would require Muslim women to remove their veil for the purposes of identification before they may vote in an election.

Predictably, the bill has brought accusations of racism from many of the usual sources.

Unfortunately for these individuals, the issue really has nothing to do with racism, or any other form of discrimination, at all. This issue is about Canada's electoral security.

"During the recent byelections in Quebec, the government made it clear that we disagreed with the decision by Elections Canada to allow people to vote while concealing their face," the bill's author, Peter Van Loan, said.

The government was right do disagree with the ruling by Elections Canada. Not only was the ruling untenably wrong, it was also extremely irresponsible.

The fact is that one of Elections Canada's prime responsibilities is to ensure the electoral security of Canadian elections. In order to ensure this, it is of paramount importance that all those casting ballots in Canadian elections can be identified as registered voters.

There is nothing racist about that -- nothing intolerant about it. However, proposals that veils should be banned in all public places clearly are intolerant (freedom of choice has to include the freedom to choose to wear the veil).

Naturally, amidst some of the meaningless outrage, there are a few insightful criticisms of the bill abound. Consider analysis by Lolita Buckner Innis, who notes that mail-in absentee ballots are still counted, despite the fact that it's impossible to be certain whether or not the person who cast the ballot was actually a registered voter or not.

That's a very fair point, and reveals a very serious loophole in elections law, one that should be closed for the same reason why Muslim women should be required to lift their veils for purpose of identification.

The day of the mail-in ballot should be over, as should be the days of veiled voting. The alternatives to mail-in ballots are certainly more expensive, but the ability to assert absolute, unassailable confidence in Canada's electoral process is well worth it.

There is nothing unreasonable about expecting Canadians to identify themselves prior to voting. In fact, it's the alternative that is unreasonable -- and to cast away Canada's electoral security in the name of spurrious political correctness would make it all the more unreasonable, and extremely irresponsible.

Of course, let it be known that there are other ways to seriously harm Canada's electoral security -- voting via internet, and the electronic voting machines so popular in the United States, stand as prime examples.

Asking Muslim women to identify themselves prior to voting doesn't even represent a minor inconvenience.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this controversy is that it reveals how little it takes to provoke a major controversy in Canada.

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