Trans voter may not cast ballot after Elections Canada mix-up

A handful of transgender people in the Ottawa-Gatineau region have received voter information cards with the wrong name and gender — and at least one voter says it could influence the decision to cast a ballot in this month’s federal election.

Élaine Gingras legally changed names and genders in 2014, before the last federal election.

But this year, two voter information cards came: one to a former address with the correct name, and one to the correct address in the Outaouais with Gingras’s previous name.

Five other local transgender voters told Radio-Canada they also received incorrect cards.

Voter information is supposed to be updated automatically, although Elections Canada says mistakes do happen — and if they do, voters should make the change in person at their local Elections Canada offices or on voting day at a polling station.

For Gingras, having to once more go through the process of providing identification and documents is distressing.

“It’s embarrassing, because people judge you from head to toe and wonder why you do not have the right name,” said Gingras in a French-language interview with Radio-Canada.

Now Gingras is trying to decide whether to vote in this month’s election.

“Do I really want to put myself through this?”

A slap in the face

Getting a voting card with the wrong name is another example of the struggles transgender people deal with daily, said Sophia D’Aoust, president of the Ottawa-Gatineau transgender support group Gender Mosaic.

“For someone who is called ‘he’ instead of ‘she’ 20 times a day, receiving a card with the wrong name is like getting slapped in the face,” said D’Aoust.

Sophia D’Aoust, president of Gender Mosaic, said the incorrect voting cards are another example of the day-to-day misconceptions transgender people have to deal with. (Vanessa Costa/Radio-Canada)

D’Aoust said she wants Elections Canada workers to receive training on how to handle complaints from transgender people who need to fix their cards.

Such mistakes are not only far from innocuous for transgender people — they’re also a bit bizarre, given the scope of modern information technology, said Marie-Pier Boisvert, director-general for Conseil québécois LGBT.

“How is it that, with today’s computer systems, this isn’t settled?” she asked.

More than 3 million changes per year

According to Elections Canada, the national register of electors contains the records of nearly 27 million Canadians and the information of about 14 per cent of them — more than three million people — changes each year.

The national register gathers data through sources such as licensing authorities, provincial and territorial registries, provincial and territorial lists of electors and Revenue Canada.

Elections Canada says one way voters can fix cards with incorrect information is by having the changes made at polling stations on the day of the federal election. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

However, some of those sources may provide erroneous or outdated information or experience delays in sending along the correct information, said Elections Canada spokesperson Natasha Gauthier.

Any changes to first names and genders are entered manually to “ensure data integrity,” Gauthier said.