“Tristin Hopper: How I almost voted after being an Albertan for five days”

Tristin Hopper of the National Post writes about his attempt to vote in the May 5 Alberta provincial election despite being resident in the province for only 5 days: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/tristin-hopper-how-i-almost-voted-after-being-an-albertan-for-five-days

Mr. Hopper, being resident in Alberta for only 5 days, wasn’t on the voters list or eligible to vote. He doesn’t make it clear whether he actually intended on voting, or whether he was curious to see how far in the registration process he could get. In either case, his story provides a good lead-in for an examination of the voter eligibility rules in Alberta.

Section 16 of the Election Act (Alberta) sets out the eligibility requirements to vote in an Alberta provincial election. In order to vote, you must be (1) a Canadian citizen; (2) at least 18 years of age; and (3) ordinarily resident in Alberta for at least 6 months.

In Alberta, if you are not on the voters list you can still vote pursuant to the declaration procedure in section 95 of the Act. First, you must produce identification that proves your name and address Elections Alberta has published a one-pager on acceptable forms of ID which is published on its website. Mr. Hopper had a piece of mail with his name and Alberta address, and his passport (which had a BC address), which satisfied the identification requirements.

The second requirement is that you sign a declaration that you are qualified as an elector and that you ordinarily reside in the polling division where you are registering to vote. It is at this stage where Mr. Hopper’s voting adventure stopped.

Wisely, he stopped before falsely signing a declaration and committing the corrupt practice of fraudulent voting under section 167 of the Act. The penalty for committing a corrupt practice: pursuant to section 177(1) of the Act, a fine of not more than $5000 or two years’ imprisonment, or both. Mr. Hopper writes that “the honour system was really the only thing that stopped me from voting illegally”, but I bet that the threat of a $5000 fine and two years in jail was what really convinced him.

A final thought about this story:

Mr. Hopper makes a point of mentioning that many of his identification and his phone number were from BC. But even if he had an Alberta drivers license and phone number and address on his passport, he still would have been ineligible for the same reason: he wasn’t ordinarily resident in Alberta for 6 months.

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