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The issue of voter turnout and the potential of democracy education

21 October 2022

Categories: Democracy education, Institutional, Voting

On October 14 at the Centre des congrès de Québec, Chief Electoral Officer Pierre Reid gave a presentation to the 7th Lieutenant-Governor’s Symposium, setting out a forward-looking approach to the issue of voter turnout. The theme for the event was “Law, Justice and Democracy.”

Élections Québec has extensively studied and documented the issue of voter turnout. Several research projects are currently underway, in collaboration with the Research Chair on Democracy and Parliamentary Institutions at Université Laval, to better understand who votes and who abstains from voting during elections. Surveys conducted with electors in 2008 and 2018 identified the reasons that lead some people not to vote while providing a basic socio-demographic picture of this group. Among other factors, age and region greatly impact voter turnout.

A fuller understanding of the factors at play and the reasons why people abstain from voting can support efforts to encourage active citizenship as well as voting. For example, in recent years, new voting procedures have been introduced to help remove barriers faced by certain electors. However, as Mr. Reid explained, even with a wider range of voting options than ever before, “a significant proportion of Québec electors failed to have their say” in the general elections held on October 3. “Some may have avoided voting intentionally, while others may have forgotten, been pressed for time or simply lacked interest.”

During the presentation, Mr. Reid reiterated his commitment to promoting initiatives designed to teach children and youth about the democratic process, as a way of addressing low voter turnout. “Democracy education is key. It provides access to important knowledge that drives interest in becoming an active, responsible and engaged citizen.”

Mr. Reid informed those present that in the context of the recent general elections, secondary and Cycle 3 elementary students had an opportunity to take part in election simulations at school. At polling places, children could also vote by answering a question designed especially for them. Finally, for the first time, 16- and 17-year-olds were eligible to work as election officers, providing them with a first-hand view of election proceedings.

Mr. Reid concluded his presentation by reminding everyone that increasing voter turnout is a shared responsibility. “Elected officials, political parties, the media, teachers, parents and civil society all need to join Élections Québec in reflecting on the issue. Collectively, we can find innovative ways of encouraging people to vote. Together, we can make a difference.”

In addition to Mr. Reid, some ten other individuals spoke at the event, sparking rich and varied discussions. Speakers included several university professors from institutions such as the Université de Sherbrooke, Université Laval, the Université du Québec à Montréal, the Université de Montréal and McGill University. To learn more about the issue of voter turnout, read Mr. Reid’s presentation (in French).

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