Voter Suppression in Vancouver’s Eastside

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Downtown Eastside Votes, a newly-formed group of residents, is organizing a voter registration drive in the Downtown Eastside. The DTES neighbourhood has the highest concentration of seniors and people with disabilities in the region. “We are also the poorest and most racialized,” says organizer Wendy Pedersen, “with a lot of linguistically isolated people here too.”

The Downtown Eastside faces a complete lack of advanced voting stations, making voting and being represented even more challenging. “I have to wonder if this is intentional given that people here are the most impacted and hurt by the city’s policies on housing, poverty, immigrant, policing, gentrification and transit,” says Pedersen.

“The city must know that DTES residents can’t, even if they wanted to, get to Yaletown to vote. So many of them need extra time for the registration and voting process because of stringent ID requirements (no more vouching for people this time).” The Eastside of Vancouver is particularly underserved, with no advanced voting stations in the DTES, Strathcona, Grandview-Woodlands, Hastings-Sunrise or Kensington/Cedar-Cottage. The nearest advanced voting station to the city’s most vulnerable is at Thunderbird Community Centre, located at 2311 Cassiar St, which still presents barriers to access.

This hasn’t stopped Vision Vancouver’s city councillor Geoff Meggs from tweeting earlier today that he’s “glad advance polling locations up to 8 from five; polls open nearly three times longer, three eastside locations.” But the reality is that there are only two Eastside locations, compared to five in the west.

This Thursday, at 133 Powell Street (Four Sisters Cooperative Common Room), beginning at 11:00 AM, Downtown Eastside Votes invite people from the neighbourhood and other affected communities to discuss the implications and ways forward.

“Advanced voting stations are needed right at Hastings and Main Street,” says Pedersen, “or the city, under Vision Vancouver, will have the disenfranchisement of thousands on its record.”

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