Minutes of the Citizen round table meeting – abridged version

The inaugural meeting of the Citizen round table was held on November 10, 2017. You may also consult the unabridged minutes (availabble in French only).

The goals of the meeting were as follows:

  • Get to know one another and develop a collaborative working atmosphere.
  • Create reference tools aimed at fostering deliberations and formulating recommendations in the interest of all voters.
  • Identify positive aspects as well as potential areas for improvement with regard to voters’ experience.

The members took turns describing their main motivations for sitting on the Citizen round table:

  • A desire to improve the electoral system by modernizing it and giving voters a central role once again.
  • A desire to offer a voice to persons generally excluded.
  • A desire to take their civic engagement to a new level.

A word from the Chief Electoral Officer

Noting the round table members’ high degree of motivation, Pierre Reid, Chief Electoral Officer, voiced his satisfaction and reminded the members that they are tasked with formulating recommendations to help the institution improve its processes and procedures. He also expressed hope that the members, as voters themselves, would share their wishes in relation to the election. He also shared a number of issues that he regarded as particularly important:

  • Modernization of the electoral system.
  • Voting accessibility.
  • Civic education.
  • Participation of younger voters, particularly outside major urban centres.

Putting voters at the centre of the electoral system

The creation of the Citizen round table reflects the Chief Electoral Officer commitment to put voters at the centre of the electoral system. However, Mr. Reid noted that the power to change the electoral laws lies solely with the MNAs. He did undertake, however, to make the round table members’ discussions public and added that he may personally take up some of their recommendations.

Workshop 1: Brainstorming exercise: “Reasons why people might not vote”

The first workshop prompted the round table members to identify reasons why people might choose not to vote at all. The dozens of obstacles to voting mentioned by the round table members can be divided into the following categories:

  • Organizational and logistical reasons (travel time, waiting time, inconveniently located polling stations, the difficulty of voting while caring for children, etc.).
  • Reasons having to do with information and motivation (unawareness of issues, parties and the electoral process, lack of information on candidates, the impression that voting is a waste of time, etc.).

Workshop 2: Golden rules of deliberation

Deliberation will be the preferred mode of discussion for the round table and consensus-based decision-making is most appropriate in that context. To facilitate the process during the two-year mandate of the round table members and to ensure that the deliberations stay respectful, the members adopted 10 golden rules.

Workshop 3: Voter categories

Because they are tasked with formulating recommendations applicable to all voters, the round table members were asked to draw up a list of categories of voters who might have difficulty casting ballots or who might entail specific challenges for the election administration. Five categories were identified:

  • Voters on the move (not at home).
  • Voters abroad.
  • Voters who are disabled or have special needs.
  • New voters.
  • Other categories of voters (elderly, single-parent families, people in remote regions, etc.).

Workshop 4: Improving voters’ experience

Knowing how to vote and being able to vote

The members were asked to reflect on three aspects of the voting experience for individuals who vote or who would like to do so in the future: knowing how to vote, going to the polling station and the voting process itself. For each of these aspects, positive points, areas for improvement and ideal solutions were discussed.

In the shoes of the Chief Electoral Officer to establish priorities

The round table members were then asked to put themselves in the shoes of the Chief Electoral Officer as regards to prioritizing certain areas for improvement in relation to the vote. The members began by agreeing on a number of criteria for establishing the priority of each aspect. The selected proposals should thus have an impact on at least one of the following:

  • Increasing voter turnout.
  • Improving voter comfort.
  • Simplifying the voting process.
  • The possibility of delivering short-term results or more in-depth long-term changes.

Once the discussions were concluded, the entire group agreed to establish the various aspects to improve on a priority basis.

Knowing how to vote
  • Lack of clarity, complexity and heaviness of the notice to the elector and the reminder card
  • Lack of centralized information on candidates
  • Lack of information on voting modalities and lack of knowledge among young people
Being able to vote – going to the polling station
  • Obligation to travel to a polling station to vote (obstacles for many people, e.g. mobility, available time, weather conditions, distance, etc.)
  • Lack of nearby polling places (particularly for people wishing to vote in advance polls or living in remote regions)
  • Too many voting modalities targeting specific categories of voters (“too much micromanagement”)
Being able to vote – the voting process
  • Waiting time in polling stations
  • Lack of information on the voting process and how to mark the ballot
  • Time required to find names on the list of electors

Assessment of the day and information about upcoming meetings

The upcoming meetings of the Citizen round table will focus on more specific topics, including potential solutions (very concrete) to the areas for improvement identified by the round table.

The members mentioned that they enjoyed the day, while Mr. Reid said that he was very impressed by the members’ hard work during the inaugural meeting.

Next meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for February 9, 2018.