Complaints over school board elections as people turned away
Long lines and voters’ lists causing problems during first school board election in seven years
CBC News Posted: Nov 02, 2014 6:08 PM ETLast Updated: Nov 02, 2014 6:13 PM ET
Complaints are pouring in as voters mark their ballot for the first school board election in seven years.
- Hundred left off voters’ list in Sunday’s EMSB election
- School boards urge voters to turn out for Nov. 2 election
Long line-ups, voters not being able to vote, and allegedly biased polling stations are among the problems being reported regarding today’s school board election.
Long lines deter voters
Although some voters reported no line-ups at all, others say the line was hours long.
Priya Karnick took her elderly parents to vote at John Rennie High School in Pointe-Claire, only to discover about 100 people were in front of her.
She told CBC News she let her parents join the line while she parked the car. When she joined them, she said she was accosted by an election worker, who accused her of jumping the line.
“I’m here like, well, I parked the car for my handicapped father, thinking it’s not your business either way, and I’m here now in line,” she said.
She said the way she was treated by the election worker caused her to leave before voting. She left shortly afterwards.
Others have reported long lines in Verdun’s Riverview School.
Voters’ list problems
Other people arrived at polling stations and were told they wouldn’t be able to vote because their name is not on the voters’ list.
Andrew Johnson took his mother, Barbara, to Westmount High School to cast her ballot. A former teacher, Barbara made the trip despite health issues. She wears a neck brace and walks with two canes to support her.
When she arrived, she was told she couldn’t vote.
“To come all this way and say ‘you’re not on the list’… I am really disappointed,” she said.
Andrew Johnson said there should be a method to add people to the list the day of, similar to federal elections.
‘“To come all this way and say ‘you’re not on the list’… I am really disappointed”– Barbara Johnson, former teacher
“To be prevented from voting, I just don’t see why. There is no reason for it.”
The school boards have been plagued with problems with the voters’ lists for months.
Only people with children enrolled in a school under the umbrella of the EMSB are automatically on the English board’s voters’ list. Everyone else is listed with the French board in their neighbourhood by default.
Voters who wanted to switch had until Oct. 14 to fill out a form and deliver it to the EMSB electoral returning officer, Pierre-Yves Bezzaz.
About 4,500 people filled out the paperwork.
Of those, 3,200 successfully switched their names onto the English list, while hundreds were refused — according to Bezzaz, either because their forms were incomplete or they contained errors.
However, today, Anne Lagacé-Dowson’s campaign is alleging that some people who were not on the voters list have been allowed to vote.
Official complaint launched
On Sunday afternoon, the Lagacé-Dowson campaign filed a formal complaint with Elections Quebec outlining a few separate issues.
In an email addressed to Elections Québec, the campaign says there have been “irregularities” at Ward 7 (Montreal North) Poll #26 Gerald McShane school.
It alleges eight people who were not on the voters list were allowed to vote. The campaign also says a voter saw a candidates’ business card with a picture on it inside the voting booth.
High stakes election
Voter turnout in the 2007 school board elections was only 7.9 per cent. The participation rate at English boards was 16.7 per cent.
This is also the first time there`s been a vote since school board elections were reformed.
Since 2007, the number of electoral districts went from 23 to 10.
Today is the first school board election since 2007, and Quebec’s Education Minister Yves Bolduc has indicated that if voter turnout is low – as has been, traditionally – the government may abolish school boards.
Long delays as voters cast their ballots in school board elections
Published Sunday, November 2, 2014 12:16PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, November 2, 2014 6:53PM EST
Long lines awaited voters Sunday as the first school board elections are taking place for the first time in seven years Sunday.
There were reports of voters waiting as long as two hours to cast their ballots, as well as accusations of voter list irregularities.
At Dorval elementary school on Carson Ave., voters reported that there was only one voting table, and that resulted in lineups out the door, and waits of 1.5 to two hours.
“I think it’s totally disorganized, and it’s unfair. We’ve had at least, since I’ve been here, at least over 20 people leave because they can’t wait two hours to vote,” said voter Ina Lynn Gray.
“It’s very a significant vote and I would never leave, but I’m not happy at all having to wait this long,” said voter Sandra Lowson.
In Verdun, 45-minute waits were also reported.
Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to vote, though voters who do not currently have children in an English school board are not automatically on the English voters’ list.
To vote, you must first determine which voting list you are on, and check the voting card you should have received in the mail identifying your polling station. You will need a piece of ID to vote. Polls close at 8 p.m.
The elections are being held across the province Sunday in the 60 francophone and nine anglophone school boards.
In the English Montreal School Board race, current chair Angela Mancini is running against veteran broadcaster Anne Lagace-Dawson. Both are running a full slate of candidates for commissioners’ seats.
In the Lester B. Pearson School Board race, incumbent Suanne Stein Day is running against Angela Nolet, the incumbent vice-chairperson, and Chris Eustace a retired teacher in the board.
Voter turnout for English school boards last election was almost 17 per cent.
Education Minister Yves Bolduc said last month that Quebec school boards might be abolished if voters turn out in small numbers for elections on November 2, something that was concerning for Mancini.
“They’re paramount. The minister has sent a clear signal that’s he going to be taking a look at what the voter turnout is going to be,” she said.
Stein-Day said many anglophones had difficulty getting their names on the English voters’ list to begin with.
“I’d say there’s thousands of people in our territory and there’s probably thousands in EMSB’s territory who are going to be disappointed,” she said.
Rival Eustace said it is progress to cast a separate ballot for chair and councillors but it may be adding to delays at the polls.
“This is the first time a chairperson is elected by universal suffrage, not elected by a small little cozy country club of about maybe 10, 12, 14 people,” he said.
The elections are organized and run by the school boards with little help from Elections Quebec
Nolet said the school boards don’t seem to have enough resources to run the election properly.
“It’s sad, it really is, that the government isn’t covering these elections,” she said.
Lagace-Dowson said the system is letting English voters down.
“It just seems to us that it is a way if disenfranchising people who obviously care very deeply about the English Montreal School Board,” she said.
As election day wore on, serious allegations were thrown by both sides in the EMSB race.
Team Mancini is accusing Julien Feldman from the Lagace-Dowson team of misrepresenting himself at a polling station from the Roslyn School in order to get voter information.
For the time being, the allegations are unproven, though the team claims they’re filing an official complaint with the director of elections.
“We’ve already put in a complaint to the DGE and we’ve also called the police I’m told from the chief electoral office, because this is someone coming into a school and taking stuff that does not belong to them,” said Mancini. “I think it’s offensive for someone who wants to become a commissioner to misrepresent himself during an election day and say he’s someone who is not. This is completely unacceptable.”
The Lagace-Dowson team is raising similar allegations of wrongdoing against the Mancini team, this time alleging conflict of interest involving election personnel at the Gerald McShane School.
They are also charging that additional names were added to the voting list at the St-Gabriel School at the last minute.
“We’re told there are six people in that ward that are not on the voters list. There’s clearly a problem with the voter’s list and problems with procedures and it looks like in ward 7 they’re playing it by ear, disregarding the process, bypassing the process.” said Lagace-Dowson.
The allegations are very difficult to verify this point, but it’s a clear indication of a very bitterly fought election at the English Montreal School board.
By comparison, things were quite tame at the Lester B. Pearson School Board.
UPDATE: Disarray, allegations of impropriety in school board elections
Source: CJAD News