In this section
General secretariat and Secretariat of the CRE
The General secretariat, which also oversees the Secretariat of the Commission de la représentation électorale (CRE), carries out an advisory and coordinating role for both institutions. It ensures that documents are officially tabled in the Assemblée nationale and is responsible for communications with political parties. In accordance with the provisions of the Election Act and the Public Administration Act, it coordinates research, strategic monitoring, planning, international cooperation, and electoral representation activities related to provincial, municipal, and school board elections. The General secretariat also ensures communications with Canada’s electoral administrations and with international associations. It also coordinates the work of the Réseau des compétences électorales francophones and is responsible for the Access to information and privacy office.
The Electoral operations department ensures the application of provisions relating to electoral events listed in the Election Act and the Referendum Act. It plans and organizes electoral events, ensures their proper conduct, and evaluates them. To do so, it relies on the 125 returning officers under its responsibility as well as their assistants.
This department also plays a role in the administration of a portion of the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities and the Act respecting school elections to elect certain members of the boards of directors of English-language school service centres. It trains, supports, and advises returning officers from municipalities, regional county municipalities, and English-language school service centres for their electoral events.
This department is also responsible for activities related to the Permanent board of revisors as well as for updating data on the permanent list of electors and its geographical data. It produces the lists of electors and the cartographic documents required to hold electoral events and for the Commission de la représentation électorale.
The Electoral operations department also modernizes certain electoral processes to simplify them and make them more accessible to electors, election officers, candidates, and political parties.
Political financing and legal affairs
The Political financing and legal affairs department carries out various activities related to the roles of educator, controller, advisor, and public prosecutor at Élections Québec.
It ensures the application and compliance with the rules governing the authorization of political entities, financing, and the auditing of election expenses. It plays a key role in training and informing political actors of the rules to which they are subject. To ensure compliance with these rules, it conducts audits and reviews activities.
This division also manages all complaints received by Élections Québec and by the Commission de la représentation électorale, whether they concern the application of election laws or the services offered. It conducts any necessary investigations and analyzes the evidence gathered to properly advise the Chief Electoral Officer on the administrative measures to be taken, or the penal proceedings to be instituted. It also serves as legal advisor to the Chief Electoral Officer and their administrative units, in addition to assisting them in their role as public prosecutor by representing them before the courts.
The Information technology department ensures, implements, and coordinates all activities related to information technology. It advises the Chief Electoral Officer and managers on the optimal use of technology. It defines and documents the enterprise architecture of the institution. It establishes strategic directions and conducts studies on information technology. It designs and delivers modern and innovative solutions and is responsible for the digital transformation of the organization. It is the foundation required to modernize the electoral processes needed to improve voter experience. It ensures the development, maintenance, and evolution of all the information systems used by Élections Québec and the CRE. This department also sets the standards and rules for information security and ensures that they are followed. It ensures the security of the infrastructure and oversees the management, operation, availability, and accessibility of all IT services at both institutions.
The Management Services department oversees the application of certain provisions of the Financial Administration Act, the Public Administration Act, the Public Service Act, and the Election Act. It advises the administrative units on the management of human, financial, and material resources. It coordinates the organization of training and events for the internal and external clientele of both institutions.
This department provides support and advice to the Chief Electoral Officer, managers, staff, returning officers, and their assistants in carrying out their activities.
Communications and public affairs
The Communications and public affairs department plays a strategic advisory role to the Chief Electoral Officer and the institution’s administrative units. It recommends communication strategies linked to their mission and strategic orientations in order to meet their communications needs with clients. It is responsible for communication activities intended for electors and partners of Élections Québec and the CRE, as well as for media relations. This department also has the duty to inform electors and the institution’s diverse clientele through means that include the Information centre.
In addition, this department serves to showcase and protect the institution’s image and reputation and works actively to increase its recognition. It is responsible for developing the means and tools necessary to implement the proposed communication strategies, including advertisements, web pages, social media content, document editing, graphic design, etc. It also manages the documentation and historical records of the two institutions and maintains a library for staff and the public interested in electoral matters.
The Communications and public affairs department is responsible for the institutional mandate of democratic education, which enables Élections Québec to foster the development of a democratic culture among current and future electors.
The returning officer’s role
Returning officers are responsible for organizing and conducting election events in the electoral division in which they have been appointed. They manage all the activities required to hold elections (general or by-elections) and provincial referendums. Returning officers shall ensure the full exercise of the rights of electors and candidates.
Returning officers are appointed for ten years following a public contest held by Élections Québec.
The selection process consists of three steps.
- Applicants must complete an electronic registration and experience assessment form
- Qualified individuals are invited to complete an online examination consisting of multiple-choice questions
- Those selected following this examination are invited to a selection interview
After their appointment, the returning officer selects an assistant returning officer in accordance with the rules established by the Chief Electoral Officer. They must also follow a training program designed by the Élections Québec team in order to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to carry out their duties.
The returning officer must understand the particularities of their electoral division in order to organize an electoral event that meets the needs of electors. They must take into account the geographical, demographic, socio-economic, institutional, and political characteristics of their electoral division.
On the occasion of an electoral event, the returning officer opens their main office. With the help of their team members, they coordinate and perform the electoral activities in the electoral division. They must also recruit election officers:
- Officers in charge of information and order
- Revising officers
- Deputy returning officers
- Poll clerks
- Members of the identity verification panel
- Officers in charge of the list of electors
These officers perform specific duties determined by the Election Act. The returning officer shall ensure the training and appointment of election officers, notably based on recommendations from the political parties.
In addition, the returning officer must:
- Prepare the material necessary to properly conduct electoral activities
- Furnish and equip offices
- Provide information on the electoral event to electors, political parties, and candidates
- Receive, verify, and acknowledge receipt of nomination papers
- Coordinate the reprography and printing of the lists of electors and ballots
- Manage advance polling, mobile polling, and election day polling
- The day after the election, count the votes and declare the candidate with the highest number of votes elected
- Following the election, write a report and participate in a follow-up meeting
- Occasionally participate in events outside of election including:
- Activities related to the delineation of polling subdivisions
- Projects that require their expertise
Conditions of practice and ethical standards
The returning officer performs duties on behalf of the Chief Electoral Officer and manages public funds. These tasks mean the position is considered a mission of public interest. For this reason, the incumbent is subject to certain conditions of practice and ethical standards.
Returning officers must demonstrate impartiality, integrity, and discretion. They must exercise political restraint. They may not be a member of a party. They must remain vigilant and transparent in awarding contracts for the supply of goods or services. The returning officer must comply with directives from the Chief Electoral Officer and, at their request, cooperate in the study, testing, and evaluation of new electoral processes.