This Week in Voter Suppression

Quebec Election

Pauline Marois had this election in the bag.  And she would have gotten away with it, too, if not for those meddling kids.

“There’s something abnormal happening.  The demographic profile of those who are registering to vote in our offices doesn’t correspond with the demographic of the circumscription.”

That’s Mathieu Vandal, now ex-president of the committee tasked with overseeing voter registration in the contested Saint-Marie-Saint-Jacques riding on Montreal Island, as quoted by Le Devoir.

What Vandal meant by “abnormal” is “boy, there sure are a lot of anglophones voting.”  But this has become about more than Vandal and his logical fallacies (e.g. that it’s only been two years since the last election, therefore there shouldn’t be so many new voters) the PQ, unsurprisingly, latched on like a leech to an exposed ankle.

That’s perhaps not surprising.  That riding, represented by ex-Environment Minister Daniel Breton, who found himself in hot water over allegations of fraud, is considered a toss-up between the Parti Quebecois and Quebec Solidaire.  The riding encompasses a huge number of students — from the so-called ‘McGill ghetto,’ to the reams of Concordia and UQAM students who live in the Plateau, and the Gay Village — and they may spell trouble for the PQ’s chances in that seat.  Barring unfriendly voters couldn’t hurt, right?

I actually lived in Saint-Marie-Saint-Jacques for a couple of years, up until last September.  In the last election, in 2012, apathy and abandonment of the political process were rife following the absurdity of the Quebec student strike.  It’s not surprising in the slightest that registrations would be way up.  Of all the ridings in the province, Saint-Marie-Saint-Jacques may be the one most willing to rebuke the Parti Quebecois over things like the Charter of Values.

But here’s the more interesting part of Vandal’s resignation.  Following his departure, Elections Quebec confirmed that they were taking decisive measures in the riding — to ensure that students of questionable residence don’t vote.

“There’s effectively been a number of students who demanded to be registered…the commissions decided to not accept their registration because they didn’t fill out the criteria,” a spokesperson told Le Devoir.

That’s been highlighted by several McGill students who had the audacity to figure that they were allowed to vote.  In conversation with La Presse, several McGill students pointed out that they would be staying in Quebec for their undergrad, and that they intended to try and find work in the province after graduation.  That includes a law student named Eric, a Montreal resident of five years who brought his lease to get registered and told it was insufficient.

Pauline Marois sen calice.  When asked, she said five years simply isn’t enough.

“I believe that a person must show they have the will to live in Quebec for a long time or in permanence, yes, in permanence,” she told reporters.  “Do they have a Quebec driver’s licence, a Medicare card, do they pay taxes here?  These are all questions that must be raised.  Someone who wants to stay somewhere generally, from the beginning of their stay, they take care of their civil status.”

I suppose it helps that the McGill crew were planning on voting Liberal.

Yet, amazingly, that exercise in Thought Crime was not the craziest thing a Pequist said all day.

“What we’ve learned yesterday [about the situation in Saint-Marie-Saint-Jacques] is profoundly worrying.  If it’s true that people are registered on the list without the right to vote, that consequently cancels out the vote of a citizen who has a legitimate right to express themselves.  The right to vote is fundamental — we can’t steal democracy.”

While they may sound exactly like federal Minister of Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre, it is in fact PQ wonderboy Leo Bureau-Blouin.  In a press conference on Sunday morning, he and his colleagues fretted that the rest-of-Canada crowd were here to steal our votes.

Because well, gosh jeez, those Ontarians have cooked a plot there, haven’t they?

Minister Jean-Francois Lisee, who appears to becoming quickly unglued, posited another theory: Its those damn Liberals.  On his blog, after listing all sorts of examples of Liberals infracting the laws of the province, he writes: “Yes, we have reasons to be worried.  Very good reasons.”

Put aside the absolute farcical carnival that this situation has become, there is a really worrying slide that is taking place here.  Poilievre, take note.

The issue at hand is the notion of a ‘domicile.’  The Elections Act states that, to vote in Quebec, you need to be 18, a Canadian citizen, and be domiciled in the province for at least six months.

Elections Quebec attempted to clarify the “complex” notion of domicile.  And they failed.

“The domicile is the place a person considers to be his or her principal establishment, gives as a reference for the exercise of his or her civil rights, and indicates publicly as being his or her domicile.”

That also contradicts their own literature, which reads: “To register, you must provide two identity papers.  The first must indicate your name and your date of birth (e.g.: a birth certificate, a health insurance card or a passport), while the second must include your name and your address (e.g.: a driver’s licence, a telephone bill or an electricity bill).”

That wasn’t the case for McGill student Arielle VanIderstine, who has done a fantastic job following the disenfranchisement of several students, including herself.

“Two students at McGill University went to the Westmount/St-Louis Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec earlier today, armed with their IDs and proof of Montreal residence.  After a brief wait, they were helped by two different registration staff.  Somehow, one was accepted and one was declined.  Both used a Canadian passport and a piece of ID from their previous provinces (one a birth certificate, the other a drivers license).  The student who used the birth certificate also brought a driver’s license from her previous province,” VanIderstine writes.

And it turns out that we may just be coming around to a longstanding problem, if my nearly-disqualified friend with three years worth of leases is any evidence.

I called Elections Quebec for comment, and am awaiting a response.

Even assuming that these fly-by-night-Quebecers should be exiled, and that to be ‘domiciled’ is to be a pure laine Quebecois who would rather be burnt alive than leave the province, proving that would be entirely impossible.

First, there’s a bit of misdirection: if you are earning money in Quebec, you are almost certainly paying taxes in the province anyway.  If you’re not earning money, tax status is irrelevant.  So it’s a trick to suggest that there are social leeches who are unfairly claiming the right to vote, without paying taxes in that province.  And would the PQ have you bring your tax receipts to vote?  Or would there be a poll tax, in and of itself?

Secondly, a Quebec Medicare card is nearly impossible to obtain for students.  As the website says, in black and white: “Certain persons who find themselves in Quebec cannot be covered by Medicare.  They include…students and all others who come to Quebec from another Canadian province.  The healthcare they receive in Quebec will be covered by their province of origin.”

Third, the state makes it notoriously hard for non-Quebecers to obtain civil standing.  There are numerous hurdles and criteria to access the benefits of the Quebec state (understandably, for what it’s worth.)

Fourth, to create a condition to ensure that Ontarians cannot vote, you would effectively be barring a huge swath of the population with expired ID, or who haven’t paid taxes in a few years.  The hurdles to jump would appear to become much higher, if Marois got her way.

But most of all: holy frig, you can’t decide all this mid-campaign.

Everything put out by Elections Quebec suggests emphatically that students from other provinces, who’ve domiciled themselves in Quebec for the six months prior, are eligible to vote.  And, frankly, this is unconstitutional.  Nothing in the Act defines ‘domicile,’ and you can’t just make crap up that restricts someone’s right to vote.

You cannot yank the carpet out from under them at the polling booth.



Marois duels the others
The Liberals “Freeze” Nominations?
This Week In Cognitive Dissonance
Minister Poilievre Interviewed On Fair Elections Act
Building Poilievre’s Electoral Fraud in the Sky


Follow Justin Ling on twitter: @Justin_Ling


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