With the recent rash of media-documented cases involving voter intimidation and suppression, there is a need to better understand the rights voters have when it's time to cast their ballot on November 6th.
For your benefit (yet again), I decided to examine this subject in detail. What’s cool is that I was able to find very useful information about voter rights in the US as well as relevant material from Elections Canada, the governing body in charge of national elections up north, for comparison purposes. We’ll get to the Canadian election system later.
The attorneys at Constangy Brooks & Smith, LLP, a firm specializing in labor law, have put together a nice little voter’s guide for the forthcoming US national elections.
This guide provides valuable material about voter rights for each state, such as how many hours an employee can use (paid or not) to vote on election day, or regulations proposed by state legislatures to minimize attempts by employers to coerce or intimidate employees to vote for a specific candidate. As some of you may already know, we learned a few days ago that Romney suggested this tactic to a small group of business owners last summer.
Here’s the guide:
GUIDE TO STATE VOTING LAWS
In the guide mentioned above, you’ll notice that in about 40% of American states, employees simply have no voting rights. Yes, nothing! For instance, they can't take time off to go to the polling station (if the employer refuses). Worse, in the majority of these states, employers can coerce or threaten their employees to vote for a particular candidate with no legal repercussions whatsoever. A perfect example is mogul David Siegel, who recently implied he'd be forced to fire employees if Obama is elected. The fact that this kind of appalling behavior is apparently legal is just astonishing.
Compare this significant lack of voter rights with those available to Canadians. Because of these rights, the Canadian election process is far more superior to the one in the US. Doubting me? Let me explain:
They still use paper ballots in Canada. Each ballot is counted one at a time by election officials and the counting procedure is simultaneously monitored by representatives from each political party in order to avoid fraudulent counts. How many times have we heard about potential fraud or computing errors with electronic voting machines in the US? No hanging chits in Canada.
The Canadian election process in Canada is not foolproof, but is much better than here, in my humble opinion.
Here’s the regulation for allowing employees time off to vote no matter where you live in Canada:
- By law, qualified electors must have three consecutive hours to cast their vote on election day. If your hours of work do not allow for three consecutive hours to vote, your employer must give you time off.
- For example, if you live in a riding where voting hours are 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and you usually work from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., your hours of work will not allow three consecutive hours for voting. To give you three consecutive hours to vote, your employer could allow you to arrive late (at 12:30 p.m.), let you leave early (at 6:30 p.m.), or give you three hours off at some point during the work day.
- Your employer has the right to decide when the time off will be given.
- It is an offence for employers to fail to provide time off for voting if required under the Canada Elections Act.
- It is also an offence for an employer to reduce an employee's pay where the employee has been provided time off to vote in accordance with the Act. The maximum penalty for violating these prohibitions is a fine of up to $1,000, three months imprisonment, or both.
Here’s another one, forbidding employer intimidation:
- It is also an offence for an employer to use intimidation, undue influence, or any other means to interfere with the granting of time off to vote under the Canada Elections Act. The maximum penalty for violating this provision is a fine of up to $5,000, five years imprisonment, or both.
Although the law doesn’t specifically address a situation where an employer intimidates employees to vote for a specific candidate, I’m sure that Elections Canada would quickly investigate the company if such claims were made. When I lived in Canada, I never heard of any such cases. A quick search on Google found nothing either.
Voter ID laws, which are used to suppress votes in the US, have become increasingly popular as of late. In Canada too, they have an ID law. However, the law is actually used to encourage people to vote, while still maintaining a good control on who is allowed to cast a ballot.
And here’s how Canadians can legally vote at national and provincial elections:
As illustrated in the figure, there are three options to demonstrate who you are when you arrive at the polling booth (see the link here for more details). It should be noted that two of the three options do not require the Canadian citizen to spend money on a form of identification, as opposed to how it’s done in the US. The latter is usually referred to as a poll tax.
In short, in Canada, every vote counts (there is no Electoral College) and the Government has put in place a system that ensures all Canadians can vote! How awesome is that?
There you have it, folks!
Now, go vote (for the good guy).