Minutes of the October 30, 2020, Citizen round table meeting: Abridged version

On October 30, 2020, the Citizen round table meeting was held online for the first time due to the health crisis. It focused on the holding of elections in the context of a pandemic. Élections Québec invited the members of the round table to express their opinion on the various measures considered for the next elections and on how information should be transmitted to electors. A complete report (in French only) on the meeting minutes is available.

Two alternate members have joined the Citizen round table for its second term, following the departure of two members in recent months.

A code regulating participation in the online meetings was presented to the round table members, who welcomed it.

Speech of the Chief Electoral Officer

The Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Pierre Reid, began the meeting by reminding members of his commitment to create a citizen committee. He indicated that the round table has met and exceeded his expectations. According to him, the round table provides a citizen perspective that is essential so that Élections Québec can improve the election processes for electors. He stressed that the topic of the meeting (the holding of elections in the context of a health crisis) has the same objective. 

The Chief Electoral Officer then presented some of the projects that are currently on the agenda of Élections Québec.

Feedback on the latest municipal by-elections

Before opening the floor to round table members, an Élections Québec staff member spoke about the by-elections held in some municipalities in the fall of 2020, which were the first to be held in the context of a pandemic in Québec. She presented the different steps undertaken since the start of the crisis and the established health protocol.

She also indicated that Élections Québec has met with municipalities that were able to hold their elections in order to appraise their experience and identify the main lessons learned.

Presentation of the measures considered for the provincial general elections

Another Élections Québec staff member presented to the members of the Citizen round table the main accommodation measures being considered in respect to voting if the next provincial general elections were held in the context of a pandemic.

He specified that these measures are based on two assumptions: the ability to hold an election in the context of COVID-19 and the impossibility of fully implementing the Election Act.

The round table members then heard about some of the accommodations being considered in more detail, such as those for electors, nominations and election officers, as well as some of the anticipated challenges, such as mobile polling and voting by mail.

Discussion on accommodation measures

Members took turns to comment the accommodation measures presented. During the discussion, there was some consensus on certain opinions. Some common concerns were also expressed.

Postponement of elections

  • Several members of the Citizen round table expressed their concern about the postponement of elections in the red zone. In particular, they expressed concern that this decision, which is the responsibility of the government, may be based or appear to be based on political considerations rather than on public health.
  • All members consider that an election process that has been initiated must be continued.

Election officers

  • Members supported the idea of reducing staff in the context of a pandemic.

Voting locations and days

  • Members supported measures to increase voting locations and days.

Voting options

  • Members supported diversifying the voting options. However, there is no unanimity on proxy voting and voting by mail.

Discussions on the means of communication

In the second part of the discussion, the members of the Citizen round table were asked to express their views on the best ways to communicate with electors in the context of a health crisis. They were also asked to comment on how to inform electors about health measures in place. During this discussion, there was consensus on some opinions. Some common concerns were also expressed.

Main messages to be conveyed

  • For many, the tone of the Élections Québec campaign should be positive.
  • Members felt that electors may be less receptive to a campaign that appeals to a sense of duty.
  • They also believe that the communication campaign should:
    • Remind people of the importance of voting and the benefits of doing so.
    • Reassure electors and inform them of the health measures in place.

Means of communication

  • Members reiterated the need to think about all socio-demographic profiles as, depending on their profile, people can use different means to get information.

Follow-up on the advice of the Citizen round table and 2020-2021 planning proposal

Élections Québec followed up on previous advice from the Citizen round table and sent a questionnaire to members regarding the 2020-2021 planning proposal.