Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

“You just keep saying voter fraud, voter fraud, voter fraud, voter fraud, rampant voter fraud, voter fraud – until it sounds like the truth.” That, said professor Carol Anderson, is how politicians get away with introducing restrictions aimed at stifling certain voters.

Ms. Anderson teaches African-American studies at Emory University in Georgia. Her new book, One Person, No Vote, is about the long history of voter suppression in the United States, particularly that directed at black and Latino communities that have a chance to swing an election.

The timing is right and the stakes are high: Midterm elections are imminent in the United States. Republicans want to keep control of the Senate and the House of Representatives, while Democrats want to wrest both awayin order to derail the Trump administration’s agenda.

Story continues below advertisement

The potential for voter suppression is very real, and Ms. Anderson has a long list of likely trouble spots. They include Georgia, Kansas and Wisconsin, places that have experienced hijacking in the form of gerrymandered districts, or polling stations moved out of low-income neighbourhoods. The most common tool, though, Ms. Anderson said, are laws around identification: Crackdowns on what can be used as proof of address are often an indicator of suppression.

“They’re being very specific about which IDs and they’re basing those IDs on the kind of data that deals with who has a driver’s licence and who doesn’t,” she said in an interview. “Who lives in public housing and has a public housing ID and who doesn’t. You begin to demographically identify different types of IDs and then make only certain types the Holy Grail to vote. Boom.”

Meanwhile, the threat of voter fraud has always been manufactured. One study focused on impersonation found 31 provable instances between 2000 and 2014, during which time more than one billion American votes were cast. This August, a Department of Justice investigation into the 2016 election process in North Carolina found that, out of almost 4.8 million ballots, 500 had been cast by ineligible voters. Most were people with criminal records, who didn’t know their records prevented them from voting (which, by the way, is wrong).

Yet North Carolina’s Republican legislature is still trying to introduce identification laws that have already been rejected twice for targeting black voters. “These folks portray themselves as hardcore patriots keeping elections from being stolen when what they’re doing is destroying the right to vote for millions of American citizens,” Ms. Anderson said.

Voter identification laws are the “bedrock” of suppression, said Ontario lawyer Steven Shrybman. He’s representing the Canadian Federation of Students and others in a coming Charter challenge because, yes, voter suppression happens here, too.

Most notable was the 2011 robocall scandal, when about 6,700 automated phone calls were placed on the morning of a federal election with misleading information on how to vote. That was dramatic, especially when Conservative staffer Michael Sona went to prison. Even so, Mr. Shrybman is more concerned with a slow chipping away of accessibility, which is what he thinks the former Conservative government was aiming for when it passed the Fair Elections Act in 2014.

Young people vote less than their elders – Elections Canada estimates that 57 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted in 2015, compared with 79 per cent of those 65 to 74 – and those who do vote tend not to vote Tory. Suspiciously, a number of provisions in the act seem to target young voters.

Story continues below advertisement

“If you’re a Conservative strategist and you realize that demographics aren’t your friend because of the increasing youth characteristic of the voting public, why not try to keep people from voting at all?” Mr. Shrybman said.

Among other troublesome moves, the act made voter information cards ineligible as proof of address, even though they’re based on Elections Canada records. This penalizes those who move often. Mr. Shrybman mentions as an example postsecondary students who keep their parents’ address on their driver’s licences until settling down after graduation, which is exactly what I did in my twenties.

The Liberals made an election promise to repeal the act, but haven’t. If they don’t do so soon, the Charter challenge begins in January.

Voter fraud is a myth here, too: Mr. Shrybman said the only true Canadian cases have involved people with dementia. Meanwhile, Elections Canada reports that 172,000 people were unable to vote in the last federal election owing to identification rules.

Voting is a right, both here and in the United States. Interrogating the identities of those for whom that right is most fragile is the real fraud.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies