By Robert Frank
Following protests about the conduct of last week’s school board elections, The Suburban received a number of queries asking what are the rules that govern the process and how individuals can file their own complaints.
The objections ranged from long lineups, rude election staff and an inability to accommodate seniors and the disabled, to poor compilation of and adherence to the eligible voters roll, as well as allegations of campaigning in polling stations and employing school board staff as political volunteers.
Asked about the lengthy queues and allegedly intemperate election staff, Elections Quebec told The Suburban that that is the responsibility of the returning officer, who is appointed by the school board.
“It looks like an organizational problem so complaints would have to be filed at the school board,” spokesman Denis Dion said in an interview. “There is no provision in the law as to how long the lineup should be. The question of whether or not there were enough polling stations or sufficient people to greet voters has nothing to do with the law. These are logistic problems.”
He added that the law governing the voters roll is very specific.
“The process to have someone’s name put on the English list of electors is defined in the law,” Dion said. “The law would have to be changed in order to change the process.”
Board staff barred
As reported in The Suburban last week, a number of candidates also complained about school board staff working for election candidates, including distributing ballots at a polling station.
Dion explained that candidates are allowed to designate people to represent them at polling stations where they are running. He added that the law states “No employee of a school board may engage in partisan work in relation to an election of commissioners of the school board.”
“About the ‘partisan work’, this notion has not been defined in jurisprudence,” he continued. “We are on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.
He added that candidates are permitted to sit at polling booths where balloting is taking place and act as their own representatives.
In a separate interview, Elections Quebec spokeswoman Geneviève Pelletier told The Suburban that school board staff are permitted to work as election officials.
“If they are hired by the returning officer, they are not to be paid by the school board,” she explained. “They must be paid by the school board as election employees.”
Complaints about violations of the school election laws can be directed to Elections Quebec (www.dgeq.qc.ca).
Complaints about logistics can be directed to the returning officers. Rémi Poliquin is returning officer for Lester B. Pearson School Board (www.lpbsb.qc.ca) and Pierre-Yves Bazzaz is returning officer for English Montreal School Board (www.emsb.qc.ca).
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