The city of Montreal should consider online voting in upcoming municipal elections, according to a commission of elected officials, who made the recommendation at a time when Elections Quebec is preparing to create a pilot project to that end for municipal elections in of the year 2025.
In an effort to increase citizen participation in elections, which has been declining over the years, Montreal should conduct a feasibility analysis “in terms of implementing digital voting,” recommends the Commission for the Presidency of the Council, made up of elected officials . of all parties, in its report presented on Tuesday.
Online voting has been requested by some participants in the public consultations of the last few months on this issue, underlined the chairperson of the commission, municipal councilor Véronique Tremblay.
“Now we have to give Elections in Montreal time to analyze it,” she said. In the last municipal elections, the percentage of participation for the entire metropolis was 38.3%.
In 2005, electronic voting used in 140 municipalities in Quebec turned out to be a fiasco, but then it was about electronic terminals installed in polling stations and not remote voting.
Pilot project for 2025
Montreal can participate in the pilot project that Elections Quebec has just announced for the 2025 municipal elections.
A call for interest was issued Monday by Elections Quebec to find a company capable of “providing an online voting solution that allows for remote voting.”
Next, the organization should test online voting with municipalities of different sizes and regions, favoring cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants.
“We will probably limit online voting to limited groups in municipalities, such as certain constituencies or municipalities,” explains Julie Saint-Arnaud-Drolet, spokeswoman for Elections Quebec.
During the consultations on this issue in 2019, opinions were very divided on the topic of web voting. Some had strong reservations, but a small majority of those consulted supported the use of the technology, says Ms.ME Saint-Arnaud-Drolet. “Social access is changing. The pandemic may have changed opinions,” she adds.
“There are still issues of vote security and reliability, so the question deserves careful study,” argued Montreal city councilor Alex Norris while presenting recommendations on participation in municipal elections.
Internet voting has been used by municipalities in Ontario for several years, points out André Blais, a professor of political science at the University of Montreal and a specialist in electoral behavior.
“There are always concerns about the risk of hacking, but I don’t know of any proven cases of fraud,” he notes.
On the other hand, online voting is also not a magic solution to drastically increase voter turnout: increases in municipalities that use the method are two to four percentage points, he says, citing studies conducted by Ontario researchers. .
What is the most effective method to encourage citizens to exercise their right to vote? “Mandatory voting, accompanied by fines”, answers Mr. Blais, who points out that this radical and controversial solution exists in about twenty countries around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Belgium and Turkey.
However, this proposal is not one of the 19 recommendations of the Commission of the Presidency of the Montreal Congress. Among the recommendations are the possibility of registering voters in the voter list online or in person on the day of voting, introducing voting by mail for health reasons or functional limitations, placing ballots in the CEC, universities, residences for the elderly and communities. organizations, adding a second day of early voting and publishing photos of candidates on the ballot.
These recommendations will be submitted to the City Council in December or January, and then the City Executive Committee will have six months to act on them.
During its report after the 2021 elections, Elections Montreal noted strong disparities depending on the sector. In the arrondissement of Joseph-Beaubien in Outremont, participation reached 61.7%, while it was 24.3% in the arrondissement of Saint-Michel, in the Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension district.
Other disparities exist by income and voter age. Those over 50 were more likely to vote despite the pandemic, thanks to early voting.