Press release No. 5 - Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the voting system - The Chief Electoral Officer proposes that general elections be held on a Sunday and believes that fixed-date elections offer certain advantages



    QUEBEC, Dec. 21 /CNW Telbec/ - Mr. Marcel Blanchet, Chief Electoral
Officer of Québec, suggests that general elections be held on a Sunday rather
than on a Monday and sees undeniable advantages, from an administrative
standpoint, of fixed-date elections. These opinions of the Chief Electoral
Officer are found in the report dealing with the compensatory mixed member
voting system and other related questions, which was made public today.
    "As an election administrator, I find that our electoral system would be
easier to manage and would cost less if general elections were held on a
Sunday and on a date known ahead of time," indicated Mr. Blanchet. The mandate
that the government entrusted to the Chief Electoral Officer allowed him to
analyze other questions in addition to the voting system, which encouraged the
Chief Electoral Officer to reiterate his proposal of holding elections on a
Sunday. Moreover, the government expressly requested the Chief Electoral
Officer's opinion on the subject of fixed-date elections, which led the Chief
Electoral Officer to analyze the question, while specifying that the decision
as to whether or not to modify the time when elections are held is first and
foremost a political choice.

    Elections on a Sunday

    In his report published in 2004 and entitled Améliorer l'accès au vote et
favoriser son exercice : une proposition du Directeur général des élections,
the Chief Electoral Officer recommended that provincial elections be held on a
Sunday, rather than on a Monday. The arguments stated at that time are still
valid today.
    Holding elections on a Monday entails numerous drawbacks which have
tended to grow over time. For example, it is increasingly difficult to recruit
election officers and volunteers for political parties. The holding of polling
in schools also poses major organizational and logistical problems,
considering that while school authorities must give students the day off, they
must also put in place additional measures to ensure the safety of children
who are attending daycare services. This obligation of giving students the day
off on Monday is also likely to cause difficulties for many parents from the
standpoint of reconciling family and professional responsibilities.
    The result of moving polling day to Sunday would not only solve these
difficulties in whole or in part, it would also offer other advantages.
Polling day at the provincial level would be harmonized with the practices at
the municipal and school levels where elections are held on a Sunday. As for
voter turnout, surveys conducted in 2004 and 2007 reveal that moving polling
day would not have a significant impact. One finds, however, that young people
from 18 to 24 years of age show a marked preference for Sunday. Moreover,
according to a consultation held in 2004 among clienteles having special
needs, such as the elderly or handicapped persons, respondents indicated that
they would be able to exercise their right to vote more easily, due to the
increased availability of assistance from family members.
    The holding of the poll on a Sunday could be combined with another
measure which would entail extending the election calendar by a few days. The
election period could vary between 34 and 39 days (as compared to the current
33 days, in most instances). It would then be easier to increase the services
offered to people who vote in public or private residential facilities or at
their home. Voting by electors outside of Québec would also be facilitated. As
for returning officers, they would have more time to devote to the recruitment
and training of election officers and they could benefit from a few invaluable
extra days to organize their office and the services offered to electors and
candidates.

    Fixed-date elections

    While the question of fixed-date elections is the subject of a debate in
which the Chief Electoral Officer does not wish to get involved, the
associated administrative aspects are of direct interest to the Chief
Electoral Officer. Indeed, knowing the date of the poll ahead of time would
offer major advantages from a planning and organizational standpoint.
    Fixed-date elections would notably make it possible to significantly
reduce the costs of a poll in comparison with the current situation. The
setting up and organization of polling stations in electoral divisions would
be facilitated. It would be possible to better plan the recruitment of
election officers. All of the activities associated with the preparation of an
election would be carried out at a better cost if the date of the poll were
known ahead of time. Indeed, in the past, the Chief Electoral Officer has had
to deploy such activities more than once during the same election cycle due to
the persistent rumors of an election. On each occasion, the costs involved
totaled several hundred thousand dollars. On pages 218 to 220 of the report,
there are numerous examples of costs associated with these preparatory
activities which could be reduced if fixed-date elections were held.
    Finally, it should be noted that in Ontario, where it was possible to
plan the last elections ahead of time because their date was known, the
anticipated savings exceeded seven million dollars.

    The report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the characteristics of a
compensatory mixed member voting system is available on the website of the
Chief Electoral Officer at the following address: www.electionsquebec.qc.ca.
    -%SU: CPN
    -%RE: 1




For further information:

For further information: Denis Dion, Information officer, (418)
644-3320, 1-888-870-3320 ddion@dgeq.qc.ca

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