Hundreds of Montrealers who wanted to vote Sunday in English Montreal School Board elections will not be allowed to because of paperwork problems.
The issue stems from how eligible voters are registered on the voters' list.
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.
Angela Mancini, the outgoing chairwoman of the EMSB who is running for re-election, says the process should be simplified.
“We are citizens just like everybody else, and we should be allowed to vote for the school board that we would like to vote for without having to go through hula hoops to get on the list," Mancini said.
Anne Lagacé-Dowson, Mancini's opponent for the chair's position, says it’s unfair that people who took the time to fill out forms and expressed an interest in voting have been rejected from the English list.
“You have a lot of people who are very interested in supporting and participating in the future of the school board who aren't able to express themselves, and I think that's a serious problem," Lagacé-Dowson said.
Candidates and advocates call for flexibility
The voters' advocacy group Civic Action League is calling on the EMSB's returning officer to take responsibility for failing to fix and process the paperwork by the Oct. 14 deadline.
“I think it's a blame game. I think they didn’t have sufficient resources to validate the identity of all the people on the form,” said Frederic Lapointe, president of the Civic Action League.
Lapointe, along with candidates including Lagacé-Dowson, say that returning officers should show flexibility on voting day and allow people to vote if they can prove they tried in good faith to switch to the English list but were rejected.
However, the province’s chief electoral officer says that rules are rules.
“The law is clear. If your name was not on the list of electors on Oct. 14 at 10 p.m., you don't have the right to vote,” said Denis Dion, a spokesman for Quebec's chief electoral officer.
Voting day is Sunday Nov. 2.