Liberals amend voting rules, reversing some Conservative changes

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is proposing to repeal controversial changes to the voting process that were made by the previous Conservative government and expand voting rights of Canadians living abroad.

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Under new legislation tabled in the House of Commons on Thursday morning, eligible voters would once again be able to use a voter information card to identify themselves at the polling station or be vouched for by another elector.

Additionally, the chief electoral officer’s mandate would be restored to allow him to conduct public education campaigns.

Those moves would address the Conservatives’ changes to the Fair Elections Act.

The Conservatives removed the information cards mailed to voters from the list of acceptable documentation, but the move was criticized as an unjustified change that would make it harder for some Canadians to cast a ballot.

“The reforms that we’ve introduced today are about removing barriers from individual voters who want to participate, but through the Fair Elections Act, were unable to,” Monsef told reporters on Thursday.

Bill C-33, introduced on Thursday by Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef, would also repeal existing statutes that make Canadian citizens living abroad ineligible to vote if they reside outside the country for five consecutive years or more. That restriction has been in place since the 1990s and is the subject of a legal challenge.

“We recognize that, in the 21st century, people are living abroad for a number of different reasons, and we see greater value in opening up democracy than we do in placing unnecessary barriers for good, honest, hardworking Canadians who want to be able to vote,” Monsef said.

The Liberals also seek to create a “national register of future electors” that would allow young Canadians to register to vote before they become eligible at age 18, and change the organization of the commissioner of elections, the office charged with investigating violations of elections law.