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Understanding democracy and elections

How the list of electors works

Summary

The permanent list of electors is a computerized register that contains information on Québec electors who have agreed to be listed on it. It was first compiled from census data taken prior to the 1995 referendum. Since then, it has been updated daily from several information sources.

In this section

Citizens’ choice

In Québec, citizens can opt to be registered on the list of electors or on a referendum list. They also decide whether they want to participate in the elections.

Composition

The data on the permanent list of electors essentially concerns the electors as well as the territories.

Electors

The permanent list of electors includes data on electors who have chosen to register on provincial, municipal, or school board lists of electors. These individuals can consent to have their information shared with Elections Canada.

The contents of the permanent list of electors was first compiled from the 1995 referendum list. Since then, we have been continuously adding, deleting, and modifying information from various sources:

Since this information is linked to the RAMQ’s files of insured persons, it allows the RAMQ to send us, in particular, any change to an elector’s name, date of birth or address.

Electoral territories

The permanent list of electors also includes information on electoral territories including:

  • The home addresses of the persons listed
  • Their electoral territories, meaning their provincial electoral divisions, municipal districts, wards and English-language school board electoral divisions
  • The territories of the different judicial districts

The electoral territories are updated as changes are made to their description. Municipalities and English-language school boards are responsible for updating these territories as required. Addresses are renewed mainly as a result of updates made by electors (new address, change of odonym, etc.).

Protection of personal information

The Election Act restricts how we can use your information. We only use the permanent list of electors:

  • To produce lists of electors for the provincial, municipal, and school board levels
  • For the purposes of auditing, investigating and prosecuting compliance with election laws

Our employees with access to this information are made aware of this confidentiality policy. They must sign a confidentiality agreement each year.

For more information on the confidentiality measures related to this information, please see the page on personal information.

Sharing your information

The Election Act prohibits us from disclosing your information without your consent for reasons other than those set out in the Act.

Public bodies

We share your information with the following public bodies:

  • The returning officers of municipalities and school boards during an election period
  • Elections Canada, to update the National Register of Electors
  • Sheriffs so they may establish jury lists

You can refuse to allow us to share your information with the returning officers of municipalities and English-language school boards as well as with Elections Canada. To do so, contact our information centre.

Political parties, candidates, members of the Assemblée nationale

The Election Act allows provincial political parties and members of the Assemblée nationale to receive the list of electors registered on the provincial lists of electors three times a year. MNAs only receive the list of voters for their electoral division.

Provincial political parties and candidates are also entitled to receive lists of electors during an election period. Candidates only receive the list for the electoral division in which they are running.

These lists contain your surname, given name, address, gender, and date of birth.

Obligations of provincial political parties, MNAs and candidates

In order to obtain lists of electors, MNAs and political party nominees must commit to upholding certain measures to protect the confidentiality of the information the lists contain. They must also restrict the use of this information to the purposes established in the Election Act. For these reasons, they must sign a confidentiality agreement.

Candidates running in provincial elections are required to sign a confidentiality agreement before obtaining the lists of electors.

The Election Act prohibits anyone from using an elector’s information for any purpose other than those specified in the Act. Furthermore, no one may disclose or permit the disclosure of such information:

  • For reasons other than those set out in the Act
  • To a person not legally entitled to the information

For more information on this subject please read the Confidentiality of elector information: a guide for candidates, members of the National Assembly and provincial political parties (PDF – in French).

Access to your personal information

You can access your personal information by making a request to the person in charge of access to information and the protection of personal information.

Entry on the permanent list of electors

In order to vote, your name must be entered on the list. You can check if your name is listed through our website at any time.

Advantages and quality of the list of electors

Advantages of a permanent list of electors

The introduction of a permanent list of electors has many advantages, including:

  • Reducing the cost of compiling lists of electors
  • Use by several levels of government (provincial, municipal, and school board)
  • Reducing the provincial election period to 33 days
  • The registration of new electors from the data of the RAMQ and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
  • Improving the quality of the lists of electors produced

Quality of the list of electors

We use two parameters to measure the quality of the permanent list of electors:

  • Its coverage, which measures the percentage of electors registered in relation to the population of Québec who are eligible electors
  • Its currentness, which estimates the percentage of voters registered at the correct address as a proportion of all registered voters

List of electors statistics

  March 31, 2015 March 31, 2020
Number of electors on the permanent list of electors 6,061,937 6,219,756
Coverage rate 94.81% 95.03%
Currentness rate 97.00% 98.05%

Using the permanent list of electors

The permanent list of electors makes it possible to produce lists of electors used for the holding of a provincial, municipal, or school board election, municipal referendums, and the election of the wardens of regional county municipalities (RCM).

Provincial list of electors

Since the introduction of the permanent list of electors on June 1, 1997, any list of electors must be created using the permanent list of electors.

At our request, returning officers validate the delineation of polling subdivisions and electoral precincts carried out by our specialized departments. Subsequently, this data is then integrated into the territories of the permanent list of electors.

At the beginning of an election or referendum period, we send the returning officer the list of electors according to the territorial description of their electoral division.

Municipalities and RCMs whose warden is elected by universal suffrage

Since June 1, 1997, municipalities are required to use lists of electors or referendums produced from the permanent list of electors. Additionally, a 2001 amendment to the Act respecting municipal territorial organization allows the warden of an RCM to be elected by universal suffrage if the council of the RCM has adopted a by-law to that effect. The provisions of the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities then apply to this election, with a few adaptations, if necessary.

The returning officers of the municipalities where elections were held in November 2017 have been provided with the list of thoroughfares so that they can verify and correct, if necessary, the names of the streets. Their corrections and the description of the electoral territories (districts or wards) were provided to us; we integrated them into the territories of the permanent list of electors.

The permanent list of electors is also updated based on the changes made during the revision periods of the municipal list of electors. The returning officer must send us the changes to be made no later than 30 days after the end of the revision.

English-language school boards

Since the introduction of the permanent list of electors on June 1, 1997, English-language school boards are required to use lists of electors drawn from the permanent list of electors for all elections.

Each year in September, the French-language school service centres and English-language school boards send us the list of parents of children enrolled in their educational establishments. The English-language school boards also provide the list of electors who, during the current year, have chosen to be entered on their list of electors.

In preparation for school board general elections, which are held every four years, each English-language school board must establish its electoral territory. These descriptions are incorporated into the permanent list of electors so that we can produce the list of electors by sector and by electoral district.

A little history

The permanent list of electors is the result of more than 20 years of reflection and attempts to resolve the problems associated with the compilation of electoral lists. Here are the milestones that led to the birth of this permanent list.

1978

An Act empowers the Chief Electoral Officer to establish a registry of electors.

One project was based on an electronic exchange of data between the Chief Electoral Officer of Québec and the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ).

The anticipated registry was not implemented due to privacy concerns.

1992

The Assemblée nationale entrusts the Chief Electoral Officer with the mandate of carrying out a feasibility study on the computerization of the provincial, municipal, and school board lists of electors.

1993

The Chief Electoral Officer tables his report entitled A computerized list of electors: report on the computerization of the provincial, municipal, and school board lists of electors. The report recommends the establishment of such a list and a mechanism for updating it in collaboration with the RAMQ.

1994

Bill 40, An Act to establish the permanent list of electors and amending the Election Act and other legislative provisions, was introduced.

1995

The Act to establish the permanent list of electors was passed on June 15 and officially sanctioned on June 16, 1995. The Assemblée nationale entrusts the Chief Electoral Officer with the responsibility of the creation and operation of the permanent list of electors.

1997

The permanent list of electors comes into force by order in council (May 31 and June 1).

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