Veiled Voting or veiled racist?
Posted by Don McLenaghen on February 23, 2011
Previously I discussed accommodationalism involving both limits on intolerance and tolerance. In researching that post, I discovered a story that has put me in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with our Conservative government – veiled voting ban. A private members bill is making its way through Ottawa that would force those wishing to vote to be visually identified by Elections Canada. Under the current law, voters are not specifically compelled to show their faces. There is no data to suggest that face covering was actually a problem for Elections Canada staff. The agency reported that no one failed to comply with requests to identify themselves during the 2008 vote. Elections Canada has retained the right to ask someone to swear an oath attesting to their eligibility to vote, if they refuse to remove a face covering. If the voter declines the oath, the agency doesn’t let them vote. This law would allow visual confirmation that no voter fraud is being perpetrated.
Quebec Conservative backbencher, Steven Blaney who is bringing forward this private members bill, wouldn’t say his bill is aimed at Muslim women, but said there have been incidents in which voters showed up at the polls wearing ski masks or Halloween masks. I think also this extends to photo ID. There have been calls by religious or cultural fundamentalist that people be able to wear face covering FOR THEIR PHOTO ID, for such things as drivers licences or passports. This is just stupid and makes the idea of visual identification farcical.
Immigration minister Jason Kenney said “I don’t think we should be adopting the French idea of banning (the burqa)… I don’t think we should be regulating what people wear but when a citizen comes to deal with the government, particularly to exercise their right to vote, I think it’s entirely reasonable that we say we need to confirm who you are and a facial identification is a reasonable way of doing that”.
The real test for this law, and perhaps the reason it should not pass is, will it be equally applied to anyone who does not have photo id? Here we see the fine line between appropriate safe guards and racism. The purpose of this law is to ensure faces match photo id, however under current laws, those without photo id (but having an uncovered face) can vote provided they present other id. Conceptually there is no difference between the two. So if we insist that those unwilling to show their face to collaborate photo id are disallowed from voting, we should also insist that those without photo id in the first place be disallowed. Or are we willing to accommodate the forgetful but not the modest?
What are your thoughts?