Score a victory for democracy-- well partial democracy.
Côte Saint-Luc assumed a leadership role in calling for the Quebec government to allow voting by mail in our November municipal elections for everyone who wishes, given the uncertainty of where we will be with the COVID-19 pandemic next fall. Thanks to the opposition Quebec Liberals, a compromise was reached. It is far from perfect, but it will help many of our electorate.
Here is a story in The Montreal Gazette that summarizes the decision.
Should the COVID-19 pandemic drag on even longer, Quebec wants cities and towns to be ready to hold their Nov. 7 elections anyway. This week the National Assembly passed a bill making the campaign rules more flexible.
QUEBEC — With the COVID-19 pandemic lingering, the Legault government has given cities more flexibility in the organization of the November municipal elections, including the authority to allow citizens over the age of 70 to vote by mail.
MNAs this week adopted Bill 85 which, among things, gives municipalities the option of offering the mail-in ballot option to older citizens. Municipalities have to pass a council resolution opting for mail-in balloting by July 1 to make it happen.
The expanded mail-in option was added at the last minute in the form of an amendment, which passed Wednesday in a vote. The score was 118 MNAs for, zero against.
“As minister, I had to put in place the conditions to ensure this major event happens. Regardless of what happens, thanks to our Bill 85, Quebecers will be able to participate in the municipal democratic process in safety and knowing the integrity of the vote is assured.”
The amendment to the bill was proposed by the Liberal MNA for Vaudreuil, Marie-Claude Nichols, the critic for municipal affairs. The government accepted the amendment.
It expands the scope of the mail-in ballot option. The initial bill, tabled in February, had the option but only for seniors living in CHSLDs or private nursing homes and people with reduced mobility who can’t travel.
In the debate over the bill, Nichols said her own 76-year-old mother would be afraid to go to a polling station if the pandemic was still happening. Nichols wanted the amendment to including to anyone over 65.
Elections Quebec indicated it would not have time to organize such a system for this election. The compromise was age 70. Elections Quebec had the same view on the issue of electronic or internet voting, which the minister Laforest also favours. There would not be enough time to put the system in place.
Elections Quebec polling shows about 50 per cent of Quebecers support the idea of electronic voting. In the 18-to-34 year-old category, the number is 76 per cent. The tool is seen as a way to boost low participation rates.
Bill 85, however, includes other clauses to ease voting in a pandemic.
To take into consideration voting by mail, the election period is expanded from 44 days in total to 51. Additional voting days will be added to avoid crowding at polling stations.
To avoid contact, fewer election workers will be on site and it will require fewer signatures to become a candidate to avoid door-to-door contact.
Finally, voters will be allowed to use their own pencils to vote.