A London city councillor seeking re-election is calling on the province to change the way it creates municipal voter lists, arguing the system unintentionally suppresses citizens who rent their homes.
Ward 11 Coun. Stephen Turner said he was canvassing apartment buildings this week, only to find that a large number of people living in rented units weren’t on the London municipal election list and had little information about how or where to vote.
“My concern is that this doesn’t happen to anywhere close the same degree with homeowners,” he said.
Part of the issue, Turner says, is the municipal election list is generated from information provided by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and, in many cases, the landlords of multi-unit residential buildings fail to pass along their tenants’ information.
“This creates big gaps in the voters list, and it really skews against renters,” he said.
By contrast, voter lists for provincial and federal elections are created from income tax forms, in which people are asked whether they wish to consent to share their information with Elections Canada.
London city hall clerk Cathy Saunders, who’s overseeing the Oct. 22 election, said the process of creating the lists is regulated by the provincial government — limiting the city to launching awareness campaigns in an attempt to get as many people as possible registered.
“City clerks have for many years expressed concerns with how the voters list is compiled and, especially when it comes to tenants, that it is inaccurate,” she said.
As part of its efforts, Saunders said city hall sent out letters to buildings where they were missing tenants so they could get registered, as well as allowing people to add themselves to the list online.
Though election day – this Monday – is only a few days away, not being on the voter list doesn’t mean people can’t vote, Saunders added. The first thing they need to do is find out where their voting poll is located by visiting city hall’s election website and entering their address.
The site will then give residents their voting location, and all they need to do is bring a piece of identification or a supporting document that contains their name and address.
For Turner, however, removing all these barriers is key to ensuring people’s participation and equal representation at the polls.
“Every step or barrier we put in the way of someone being able to vote is another probability they won’t,” he said. “The municipal voter turnout is notoriously low . . . so anything we can do to improve the process is essential.”