Internet Voting: 21 Cities Interested in Élections Québec’s Pilot Project

Many municipalities such as Montreal, Quebec, Laval, and Gatineau have raised their hands to participate in the pilot project aimed at allowing a portion of the electorate to vote online in 2025. However, according to Elections Quebec, it is “unlikely” that a similar experiment will be conducted during the next provincial election in 2026.

In total, 21 cities showed interest in the project, which ended on November 30th.

Among them are 7 of the 10 most populous municipalities in Quebec, with the notable exception of Longueuil, Sherbrooke, and Saguenay. Medium-sized cities like Drummondville, Rimouski, Rouyn-Noranda, and Baie-Comeau also expressed interest.

The list of municipalities selected for the pilot project will be revealed in the coming weeks, or even in the next few days. Originally, Elections Quebec had promised to select “about fifteen.”

Only municipalities with 20,000 inhabitants or more were called to submit their candidacy, mainly because there are generally fewer uncontested elections in these cities, which, if existent, would make the implementation of a new voting system unnecessary.

Municipalities that have shown interest in participating in the pilot project of Elections Quebec

Montreal; Quebec; Laval; Gatineau; Lévis; Trois-Rivières; Terrebonne; Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu; Drummondville; Granby; Mirabel; Rimouski; Rouyn-Noranda; Saint-Georges; Alma; Sainte-Julie; Magog; Beloeil; Saint-Lazare; Joliette; Baie-Comeau.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MAMH), the pilot project aims to allow 10% of the residents of each selected city to vote online in the next municipal elections, which will take place on November 2, 2025.

Although the conduct of the election will continue to fall under the responsibility of the municipal returning officers, Elections Quebec will be responsible for the online voting trial. The experience will be uniform from one city to another, promised the institution, which will entrust an external provider to develop a unique digital platform.

However, it is said that online voting will not be mandatory. Those who want to vote in the traditional way by placing their ballots in the ballot box will be able to continue doing so.

Offering more options to voters, without expectations

The position of Elections Quebec regarding online voting has evolved over time.

Disappointed with the voter turnout in the municipal elections of 2017 (44.8%) and the provincial elections of 2018 (66.15%), former Chief Electoral Officer (DGE) Pierre Reid invited the members of the National Assembly at the time to consider this option to improve the situation.

Published in 2020, an analysis of experiences conducted abroad and in other Canadian provinces (such as Ontario, which already allows online voting in municipal elections) had convinced him that in Quebec, the implementation of such a voting system would not necessarily have the desired effect.

Four years later, the position of Elections Quebec has not changed, according to its spokesperson Julie St-Arnaud-Drolet.

“Our goal with this first trial of online voting is to facilitate access to voting, because the study of similar experiences both worldwide and in Canada does not show that the introduction of online voting significantly increases voter turnout,” she explains.

What we observe is that people who would have voted in person will instead choose to vote online because the option offers them more flexibility and is easier for them.

However, Elections Quebec issued a call for interest in November 2022 – just before Mr. Reid handed over his position to Jean-François Blanchet, the current Chief Electoral Officer (DGE) – to allow interested providers to “demonstrate their interest and ability to meet the requirements related to the deployment of online voting.”

This call for interest was followed by a formal tender in October 2023. This concluded in December last year with the opening of three submissions from the multinational companies Scytl, Smartmatic, and Voatz.

The name of the chosen company will be revealed “before the summer,” assures Julie St-Arnaud-Drolet. However, Elections Quebec has reserved the right to not select any of the proposed solutions if they do not meet its requirements.

The institution promises to cover 100% of the costs of the pilot project. However, these costs have not yet been revealed.

Not on the agenda for 2026

For now, Elections Quebec does not plan to launch a similar pilot project for the next provincial elections in the fall of 2026. “It’s not on the agenda,” confirms Julie St-Arnaud-Drolet.

Once the municipal elections are over, at the end of 2025, Elections Quebec will evaluate the pilot project and its results, in order to “ensure that the experience meets the expectations of the population,” she explains, adding that the institution she represents will also want to gauge the members of the National Assembly.

In this context, the timeframe would be very tight – too tight, in all likelihood – to launch a second pilot project. It is therefore “very unlikely that there will be online voting in the 2026 provincial elections,” summarizes Ms. St-Arnaud-Drolet.

Electronic Voting and Online Voting, What’s the Difference?

Online voting is done through a dedicated online portal, while electronic voting is done in a polling station using a voting machine designed to automatically compile the results.

Electronic voting was tested in Quebec during the municipal elections of 2005. However, the system experienced significant failures.

The current pilot project “has nothing to do with what was done in 2005,” assures Julie St-Arnaud-Drolet. However, the painful experience allowed Elections Quebec to “draw conclusions [that will be applied] to the current project,” she points out.

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