Sainte-Foy, November 29, 2001 -- The report of the feasibility study on a digitized Voter I.D. card with a photo, published today by the Chief Electoral Officer of Québec, draws a brief portrait of the Voter I.D. card situation in the world. Moreover, the document reveals that those States having a Voter I.D. card with security components and a photo form a very limited group.
In his feasibility study, the Chief Electoral Officer wanted to put into perspective the Voter I.D. card with the other elements of the electoral system. According to the report, it is important not only to state the characteristics of a Voter I.D. card, but also to understand in what continuum, in what type of environment and in what type of society such a card finds its place. To clearly understand the role that a Voter I.D. card plays in an electoral system, it is necessary to analyze all the components of the system, including the list of electors, the place where electors can vote, etc.
Generally, those States that have such a card do not benefit from a permanent list of electors like the one that we have in Québec. Some of them, particularly in French-speaking Africa, have difficulty drawing up reliable lists of electors. In most of these States, electors are not required to vote at a specific location.
Mexico and France: particular cases
The report also draws attention to the case of Mexico, which is often cited as an example when the subject of Voter I.D. cards is discussed. Indeed, the Mexican Voter I.D. card has nine security characteristics, including a fingerprint, a photograph, watermarks and holograms. What is more, in Mexico, the lists of electors that are distributed to political parties include the photo and the full name and address of the electors.
Mexico implemented a Voter I.D. card in 1990 in the wake of a vast reform begun twenty years earlier to clean up electoral practices. In particular, this reform gave rise to the creation of the Federal electoral institute (FEI), an independent electoral commission, as well as a series of legislative and administrative measures. According to Mr. José Woldenberg Karakowsky, FEI president, the integrity and transparency of elections required drastic measures. These measures must be seen, according to Mr. Karakowsky, as the response to the historical "unreliability" of Mexico’s electoral process.
The document prepared by the Chief Electoral Officer also focuses on the French Voter I.D. card. The report points out that in France, the Voter I.D. card is not mandatory to vote. It is the registration on the list of electors that grants French electors the right to vote in an election. Moreover, the card does not bear the elector’s photograph. Another identification card, generally the National Identity Card, is required for identification purposes at the time of voting.
The point of view of experts
The Chief Electoral Officer’s report cites the point of view of experts in the electoral field on the question of the Voter I.D. card. The authors of the ACE Project, a world databank on elections, point out that "In those countries where citizens are required to have an identification document, as for example a national identity card, a driver’s licence, an employment identity card or any other identification document, the electoral administration does not need to issue another identification document."
The report contains, in its appendix, tables presenting the data pertaining to electoral identification at the international level. Three categories of States were established. The first category is that of States where electors have a Voter I.D. card, with or without a photograph. This is the case, among others, of Brazil, Salvador, Ghana, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay, France and several countries of French-speaking Africa.
The second group of States is made up of those where there is no Voter I.D. card, but where a common identification document is required for identification purposes at the time of voting. This is the case of Germany, Belgium, Argentina, Spain and Venezuela. Québec has been part of this group since the introduction, in 1999, of legislative provisions requiring that electors establish their identity at the time of voting.
The third and last group comprises those States where electors establish their identity verbally at the time of voting. Aside from Canada, this is the case of Australia, Great Britain, Japan, Norway and Sweden.
The fact-finding report, entitled Une carte d’électeur numérisée avec photo: de la faisabilité à l’opportunité, is available on the web site of the Chief Electoral Officer at the following address: www.dgeq.qc.ca. This report can also be obtained by calling one of the following numbers: Québec City: (418) 528-0422, outside Québec City: 1-888-353-2846, TDD: 1-800-537-0644.