City trusts its citizens

Whitehorse is putting a lot of trust in its citizens. A shrinking voters' list, blamed largely on privacy concerns, will leave more voters swearing in at the polls Thursday, rather than having their name crossed off a list.

Whitehorse is putting a lot of trust in its citizens.

A shrinking voters’ list, blamed largely on privacy concerns, will leave more voters swearing in at the polls Thursday, rather than having their name crossed off a list.

The list has fewer names on it than three years ago. This despite the fact the population of Whitehorse has increased over that same time.

The number of registered voters has fallen to 10,708, down from 10,717 in 2006.

“It has partly to do with privacy issues. People don’t want that information posted in municipal buildings,” said Norma Felker, the city’s returning officer.

Having fewer people on the list means there are greater opportunities for voter fraud. That’s because the current electoral system places a great deal of faith on the voter.

Whitehorse doesn’t require citizens to present any sort of identification at the polls.

If they are not on the list, but have lived in Whitehorse for more than a year, they only need to sign an oath that confirms their identity and that they haven’t voted at any other poll, said Felker.

“There are no safeguards, it works on the honour system,” she said.

“To the best of my knowledge and belief, no, people haven’t abused the system in the past.

“But it is open to question,” she added.

The city has considered aligning itself with federal voting laws that require all citizens to present identification at polling booths, said Felker.

These rules are meant to prevent people from voting several times, or using dead relatives or fictional characters to game the vote.

Voting legislation is laid out in the Yukon Municipal Act and can only be amended when the act is under review, a process that happens about every five years.

A public posting of the voter list is mandated by the act, and it is unlikely it will be changed in the near future, said Felker.

“Everybody knows each other in the smaller communities (in the Yukon) so it’s not a major concern to them.”

To change the law, there would have to be support from a majority of communities around the territory, she said.

Privacy issues have been an issue during past enumerations, said Felker.

“We heard of a lot of people who turned enumerators away, who said they didn’t want to be bothered.”

However, it’s not just a desire to protect their identity. Another explanation is “apathy,” she said.

Last election, 60 to 70 people who weren’t on the voters’ list filled out ballots.

It’s a number Felker expects will increase at Thursday’s election.

She isn’t worried the shrinking voters’ list will signal a smaller voter turnout.

“People who are motivated to vote will vote under whatever circumstances.”

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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