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Understanding voting

The reporting of provincial election results

Summary

Election results are reported on election day, after polling stations close. However, the results released on election night are preliminary. Official results are released a few days later, following the addition of the votes and once the deadline to apply for a judicial recount has passed.

In this section

During provincial elections, results are reported as the votes are counted. When counting the votes, election officers follow a series of steps. Here are the main ones:

  1. They unfold all the ballot papers contained in a ballot box and sort them by candidate;
  2. They count the number of votes cast for each candidate;
  3. They record this figure on a form called Statement of votes;
  4. They forward the information to the main office of the electoral division’s returning officer, who releases the results by entering them in a computer program.

Votes cast on election day are counted after polling stations close at 8 p.m. Any electors already in line at that time will still be allowed to vote. In these cases, the polling station will close once all these electors have voted. This can delay the counting of the votes.

The counting of votes cast at advance polls may begin as early as 6 p.m. on election day. However, no results can be reported before polling stations close. This explains why some results are available very soon after 8 p.m. Advance polls include:

  • Voting on advance poll days
  • Voting in educational institutions (CEGEPs, universities, vocational training centres)
  • Voting in residential and long-term care centres (CHSLDs) and private seniors’ residences
  • Voting in hospitals, rehabilitation centres, palliative care homes and addiction resources
  • Voting at the domicile of electors who are unable to move about for health reasons
  • Voting in correctional institutions
  • Voting outside Québec, for electors living abroad

If these trends continue…

The results released on election night are preliminary. During the counting of the votes, the media will make projections and predictions. And they will sometimes declare certain candidates elected before all votes have been counted. However, the results are not considered official until a few days later, when the declaration of election is issued.

The addition of the votes, judicial recounts and the declaration of election

The day after an election, the results are initially confirmed through the addition of the votes, which normally begins at 9 a.m. Four days are then provided for filing an application for a judicial recount with the Court of Québec. If no applications for a judicial recount are filed during this period, the returning officer will declare the candidate who received the most votes as having been elected.

If an application for a judicial recount is filed and granted by the court, a judge will oversee the recount of the votes. Any person may apply for a judicial recount if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that ballot papers have been unlawfully counted or rejected, or that a statement of votes is incorrect. Once the court confirms the results, the returning officer will declare the candidate who received the most votes as having been elected.

In the event of a tie between two candidates, a judicial recount is automatically conducted. If the recount confirms a tie, a new election will be held.

Reporting of polling station-level results

We only release polling station-level results after the official report of election results has been published. This usually happens about a month after the election.

Each polling station corresponds to a single ballot box. If a ballot box contains fewer than 10 ballot papers or if a single candidate receives all the votes in a ballot box, we combine that polling station’s results with those from another to protect the secrecy of the vote. In such a case, the official report of election results will show no votes for the polling station concerned. In fact, the votes have been counted and then combined with the results from another polling station.

Polling station or polling subdivision?

A polling subdivision consists of all electors living in a particular area. On election day, each polling subdivision corresponds to a single polling station (each polling place contains multiple polling stations).

However, at advance polls, multiple polling subdivisions are assigned to the same polling station. In addition, electors from various polling subdivisions are allowed to vote at the office of a returning officer, as well as at a CEGEP, university or vocational training centre. Accordingly, the results for an advance polling station will not necessarily correspond to votes cast by electors from the same polling subdivision.

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