03/23/2014 10:43 EDT | Updated 05/23/2014 05:59 EDT

Elections Quebec says staff have discretion in voter registration

Quebec's Chief Electoral Officer says electoral list revisors have the power to use their discretion when determining who is eligible to vote.  

Recently, concerns were raised about increased anglophone and allophone voter registrations in two Montreal-area ridings.

In a statement released yesterday, the Chief Electoral Officer said staff are trained and tested to make decisions regarding voter eligibility, and "given directives to which they may refer for guidance."

"They form an independent authority and have full jurisdiction and competency to enter new electors on the lists of electors, make corrections to the lists, or strike names from the lists," said the statement from the Directeur général des élections.

The former president of Sainte–Marie–Saint–Jacques riding's board of revisors, Mathieu Vandal​, was so worried about the risk of voter fraud he quit Friday.

Vandal said the documents people wanting to register can provide often don't show without a doubt that they are in fact legally allowed to vote in Quebec.

The debate has revolved around the notion of where people consider to be their "domicile," and whether they intend to make Quebec their permanent place of residence. 

"The notion of domicile can be complex, and questions may be raised as to its interpretation," said the Chief Electoral Officer in the statement. "In other words, 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." 

Meanwhile, more non-francophones —​ particularly students — are claiming they are being refused when trying to register.

In the riding of Saint–Henri–Sainte–Anne the president of the board of revisors, Roger Rivard, admits he's turned dozens of them away.

"Our decision is quite important because if we enter someone who is not eligible to vote, he's on the list forever and we have no right to take him off," said Rivard. 

Rivard said he prefers to play it safe than to make a mistake.