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Lisa-Marie Gervais June 7 2012
Original French text: http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/education/351854/le-plq-craint-les-etudiants
Charest’s Liberal Party is opposed to the installation of polling stations in Cegeps and Universities
According to Liberal representatives, absentee voting should be emphasized, since one study showed that it permitted a 10 percent increase in participation. Photo: Jacques Nadeau
The Quebec Liberal Party is afraid of the students. It’s afraid of the students to such an extent that it’s opposed to the installation of voting booths in cegeps and universities, as was proposed by the Director General of Elections Quebec (DGE), Le Devoir has learned.
This was revealed as part of a report of the meeting of the technical committee on voting by the advisory group of the (DGE), a copy of which has been obtained by us. “The representatives of the Liberal Party aren’t in favour of putting polling booths in institutions of learning. They mentioned that this measure particularly favoured a part of the young electorate, that is, the students,” according to the confidential report of the meeting that took place on the 26th of April.
The meeting which brought together designated representatives from each of the political parties in the National Assembly, was presided over and co-ordinated by the DGE, and aimed to address, among other things, the issue of polling booths in cegeps and universities. The Quebec Liberal party (PLQ) is the only one who opposed this measure, while the position of the Parti Quebecois (PQ), Quebec Solidaire, The National Option and the Coalition For Quebec’s Future were in agreement.
According to Liberal representatives, absentee voting should instead be emphasized, since one study showed that it permitted a 10 percent increase in participation. Besides, they say they are “very in favour” of measures that support the participation of the entirety of the 18-25 year old population, including that segment that are young workers. In fact, they believe that it’s the job of the DGE to accentuate publicity to encourage participation by the youth.
Moreover, no surprise here, the Parti Quebecois diverges completely from the position of the Liberal Party and rejects the absentee vote, preferring the installation of polling stations in institutions of higher learning. Also according to the report, the representatives of the Parti Quebecois maintain that “The proposal by the DGE is very appropriate and that this measure would give youth the best access possible.”
Last November, the PQ asked the DGE to arrange polling stations in the campuses to permit students situated outside their riding to vote in advance in the regions where they study. This idea was equally supported by the PQ national committee for youth, and the youth commission of the Liberal Party. In 2008, less than one in two young Quebecers aged 18-24 (41.2 %) set foot in a polling booth according to the DGE.
The report of the meeting makes it apparent that the installation of voting booths in campuses is feasible, despite the extra costs. But last April’s meeting ended in a stale-mate, without a consensus, which would be a prerequisite for changing electoral law.
In 2006, bill 22 modified elections law to support voting rights. One of the sections introduced by that bill forbids students from voting outside the region in which they reside, that is in the regions where they study. This section, as well as others, will affect the results of coming bi-elections in Argenteuil and Lafontaine on Monday, because of the agreement between the parties.
The President of the Federation of University Students (FEUQ), Martine Desjardins, is not surprised by the position of the Liberals. “They’ve made a calculation that the students don’t want to vote for them, and the other parties have made the reverse assumption. But it seems to me that the goal should always be to get elected, she said. Since the Liberals have been in power, we’ve never had a positive response to this demand that we’ve been making for several years.”
Her opposite number at the college level, Eliane Laberge, thinks that a government should leave aside partisanship and take “an enlightened decision” that favoured electoral participation, and that, “ it doesn’t matter who is in power, or how conflicted the situation may be.”
“The office of the DGE has indicated that they “deny responsibility” for the document leak “we condemn it vigourously. The documents of the advisory group are confidential and we stand by this confidentiality,” said Denis Dion, the spokesman of the DGE. The Liberal Party of Quebec did not return calls by Le Devoir.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
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