Election difficulties and advice on how best to deal with them
Concordia’s Michael Groenendyk can attest that voting nightmares aren’t reserved for students — it took him a week and a half, three trips, and many hours spent arguing, debating, and phoning before the matter was settled.
Like many others, Groenendyk’s careful efforts, which saw him bring his passport, a copy of his lease, and pay stubs, were initially insufficient to prove his domicile status, which, according to Quebec law, simply means calling Quebec as one’s primary place of residence for at least six months. If you are a domiciled Canadian citizen of adult age, you can vote in Quebec. The Concordia business librarian, originally from Nova Scotia, and his girlfriend were told to return with additional documentation.
Upon their return, they said they faced a hostile reception from a new, different clerk.
“He repeatedly asked us whether or not we were students. I told him I was a Concordia employee, not a student, and showed him my documentation. I also explained to him how difficult librarian jobs are to come by and, in moving to Montreal, it is my plan to live here permanently,” he said, perhaps alluding to the recent comments by Premier Pauline Marois which insinuated that consideration should be put on whether voters also have the intention of staying in Quebec.
After heated arguments, during which the official seemed to doubt Groenendyk’s girlfriend’s waitressing job as sufficiently permanent as well, Groenendyk was told their documents were sufficient for now, but needed to be further inspected.
Four days later, after the period to add names to the elector’s list had expired, they received letters telling them they had, in fact, not met the criteria. It was only after contacting several newspapers and his party of choice that Elections Quebec invited him to reapply during a special revision period using essentially the same documentation, plus income tax documents, that had been judged insufficient previously. He said he found this manner of decision baffling.
Alison Maynard, project coordinator of the English youth vote mobilization project, Vote it Up, said proving domicile status was a complex endeavor.
“Living in Quebec is not proof that you are domiciled in Quebec — especially if your permanent address is in another province,” she said.
Maynard advised that the best documents to prove one’s status are either a provincial income tax return, a Quebec driver’s license, a Medicare Card, or other provincial documentation stating your status as a Quebec resident.
She also said that fewer Anglophone voters have registered this time around, despite comments by certain Quebec officials of ‘voter fraud’ by an influx of out-of-province students. Maynard stated that the chief electoral officer’s reports of non-eligible students attempting to register are ‘greatly exaggerated’ and that media comments of fraud were ridiculous.
Groenendyk said he believed the fault to a large extent lies with the particular officials, who he believes wield too much power in the decision.
“The thing that worries me about this situation is how easily it is for one individual elections clerk to deprive somebody of their right to vote, and also the standards for the criteria for who is eligible to vote and who isn’t. Why is it that my documentation is okay for one clerk, but not okay for another?” he said.
However Groenendyk also said he still believes that the elections are inclusive, that they are trying to involve everybody, in spite of his experience and what other people are saying. “I do believe, [from] talking to Elections Quebec, that they are trying to run a fair election. I genuinely felt that the people I spoke to were trying to help me and [were] giving me a fair chance to demonstrate that I met the criteria to vote.”