A word from the Chief Electoral Officer: A look at the year ahead
Québec’s Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Pierre Reid, opens the meeting by outlining the activities leading up to the election planned for October 1, 2018. He also discusses the preparation of the 2019-2023 strategic plan and mentions that the Citizen round table’s recommendations will provide input for that reflection. The proposals put forward by the Table’s members will be considered, and the most promising could become legislative recommendations.
Based on the diagnosis established at the first meeting, the members are invited to discuss proposals concerning the following three aspects: information provided to voters, voters’ experience at polling stations, and advance voting options.
Information provided to voters
In regard to information provided to voters, the members want the institution to continue developing information campaigns geared to various segments of the population and to pursue its efforts to provide electors with a broad range of means of information. They also want those means of information to be enhanced.
The means of information available to the electorate at the time of the last general election, in 2014, are the subject of more specific recommendations. Members also express their views on the new means of information that they hope to see developed.
Changes to mailings
In regard to mailings sent to electors during the election period, the members propose that:
- mailings be maintained;
- the Voter’s Manual be improved or better publicized;
- changes be made to the format and content of the mailings, in particular by:
- streamlining contents and using pictograms;
- adopting a vertical format;
- using clear vocabulary that is both less administrative and more meaningful for electors.
Development of new information tools
The members propose the use of other means of information, such as:
- a text-messaging reminder service;
- access to an interactive information tool on the institution’s website enabling electors to register and change their entries on the list of electors online. This tool would also allow voters to determine the voting options available to them in a more personalized fashion.
The members also mention the need to review and improve the institution’s website to make navigation more user-friendly.
Better publicize certain voting options
According to the members, certain voting options, such as voting in educational establishments, would benefit from greater visibility. The members recommend that the Chief Electoral Officer work in co-operation with educational establishments to better communicate with voters attending those institutions by using student portals and improving signage displayed at educational establishments to announce polling.
To better disseminate information about voting, the members suggest that:
- the Chief Electoral Officer partners with local organizations to get more information out to segments of the electorate that are more difficult to reach;
- election-related advertising be disseminated in the metro (Montréal) or in public transit services (in urban areas).
Centralized platform on candidates
The members would like Élections Québec to develop a centralized and impartial Web platform to provide information on the candidates and recommend that:
- the information that it contains be provided by the candidates themselves;
- the information be concrete, positive and regulated;
- the platform be publicized so that it is viewed as widely as possible;
- basic information about the candidates be provided in a mailing, accompanied by a link to the Web platform.
Based on the diagnosis established during the previous meeting, the members evaluate the proposals aimed to:
- reduce polling station waiting times;
- improve polling stations access (distance and polling hours);
- improve voters’ experience at polling stations.
At the end of the sessions, the members propose five main changes to give electors greater flexibility and make voting more efficient:
- introduction of a computerized list of electors at polling stations as part of a networked province-wide system;
- the option to vote at any Québec polling place thanks to the computerized lists of electors;
- reconfiguration of polling places according to a single-window service (“first come, first served”);
- earlier opening and later closing of polling stations on polling day;
- the option for voters to register on the list of electors or change their entries at polling stations during the advance polling or on election day.
Advance voting options
To improve access to advance voting options, which are deemed to be complex, it is proposed that:
- registration for certain advance voting options be made easier by:
- allowing telephone registration;
- eliminating certain declarations and requirements for supporting documents;
- automatically renewing the registration for the following elections;
- certain voting options be extended to a greater number of electors, for example:
- that polling stations in educational establishments should be able to accommodate all electors who wish to vote there;
- that polling stations be set up at detention centres so that detained individuals may vote there;
- that new polling places be set up to make voting more accessible to electors.
Greater flexibility for the Chief Electoral Officer with respect to the Act
Because the Election Act is written in a very precise and formal manner, it limits the Chief Electoral Officer’s scope of action and restricts the range of means by which electors’ needs can be better addressed. The members therefore propose that the Election Act sets out the main principles to be respected in regard to voting and that it leaves the Chief Electoral Officer greater leeway in choosing the means of action.
Mr. Reid states that he had heard a great many interesting ideas during the day and will endeavour to take them into consideration for 2022, and perhaps even as early as 2018 for some of them. He concludes by mentioning that from one meeting to another, the members prove that the Citizen round table is an essential new forum for the institution.
The next meeting is planned for June 8.