From September 17 to November 7, 2021, municipal democracy will be in full swing as general elections are held to elect members of the municipal council in more than 1,100 municipalities as well as wardens in 18 regional county municipalities (RCMs).
New measures will be in effect to ensure the smooth operation of elections in the context of the pandemic. The following is an overview of the major changes, which will apply only to the 2021 municipal general elections.
The health measures in effect at the time of the elections will be in addition to the measures outlined below. Wearing a mask or face cover, physical distancing, disinfection of hands: everything will be done to ensure the safety of all people taking part in the election, including electors.
What’s new for electors
- The hours of operation for all polling stations will be extended from 9:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- Each municipality may add advance polling days. Municipality who so desire may also offer voting days in the office of the returning officer. Up to eight voting days could be offered in some municipalities. Municipalities must hold at least two voting days: an advance polling day and voting on election day.
- Electors will be able to mark their ballot papers with their own black or blue pen or lead pencil. Pencils will be available for those who do not have any.
- There will be no mobile polling stations in seniors’ residences and residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs). However, residents of these facilities will be able to vote by mail.
- An elector will be able to vote by mail if:
- He or she lives in:
- a CHSLD;
- certain private seniors’ residences – see the register (in French) of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux;
- a hospital or rehabilitation centre;
- He or she cannot travel for health reasons (in this case, his or her caregiver may also vote by mail if he or she is domiciled at the same address);
- Must isolate himself or herself to comply with the directives of public health authorities because he or she:
- has returned from a trip abroad within the last 14 days;
- has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is still considered a carrier of the disease;
- is showing symptoms of COVID-19;
- has been in contact with a suspected, probable or confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 14 days;
- is waiting for a COVID-19 test result.
- Each municipality may also offer voting by mail to electors who are 70 years of age or older on November 7, 2021. The municipal council must pass a resolution to this effect no later than July 1.
- He or she lives in:
To be eligible to vote by mail, a person must be domiciled in the municipality. However, an elector whose domicile is in another municipality may apply to vote by mail if he or she is required to be isolated because of directives of the public health authorities. Any person who is eligible to vote by mail may also register or change his or her entry on the list of electors in writing, if necessary.
As usual, municipalities may also offer voting by mail to electors whose domicile is in another municipality (for example, owners of a cottage).
Some measures for returning officers of municipalities
- The election period will begin seven days earlier, i.e., on September 17, as will the nomination period, which will run from September 17 to October 1. This will allow for ballot papers to be mailed to electors more quickly. Several other measures aim to ensure the efficiency of voting by mail.
- In order not to delay the announcement of the results, the counting of all advance polls, including votes by mail, may begin as early as 6:00 p.m. on November 7, provided that it is done behind closed doors until the closing of polling stations.
- To limit the number of people in the polling places and to facilitate the recruitment of election officers, each polling place may have three fewer staff members than usual.
Some measures for the candidates
The following measures apply only in municipalities with a population of 5,000 inhabitants or more.
- In order to limit contact, the number of supporting signatures required to obtain authorization from the Chief Electoral Officer as an independent candidate varies from 5 to 50, depending on the population of the municipality and the position sought. Usually, this number varies from 5 to 200. Authorization from the Chief Electoral Officer is required to collect political contributions and to incur expenditures to promote one’s candidacy, for example.
- The number of signatures of members required to authorize a political party in municipalities of 100,000 inhabitants or more is also lowered to 50, from the usual requirement of 100 signatures.
- Sanitary services and equipment used by candidates during the election period may be reimbursed at a rate of 70%, as with any other election expense, if the candidate is elected or receives at least 15% of the votes.
For more information
These measures arise from the regulation established by the Chief Electoral Officer (PDF) under the Act to facilitate the conduct of the 7 November 2021 municipal general election in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (PDF), adopted on March 25, 2021.
As the elections approach, Élections Québec will post more specific information on this subject on its website. In due course, municipalities will also contact their electors to ensure that they can all exercise their voting right.