Internet voting knocking on the door of 15 cities here

Internet voting is about to make its entrance into Quebec democracy during the 2025 municipal election. Elections Quebec is expected to announce a list of about 15 cities on Wednesday that will serve as a laboratory where part of the electorate can exercise their right from the comfort of their own homes.

Almost six years after the National Assembly unanimously gave the Director General of Elections Quebec the mandate to “conduct a study to propose, within two years, a mode of remote voting,” the organization is entering the final stretch to introduce online voting.

There are 21 cities, including 7 of the 10 largest in Quebec, that have raised their hands to participate in the pilot project. Elections Quebec is expected to announce Wednesday the fifteen of them where it will be possible to vote online during the November 2, 2025 election.

The selected municipalities are expected to represent a “diversity of profiles” and regions, according to Elections Quebec. And in each of them, only a portion of the population will have access to online voting. “We are talking about approximately 10% of the electorate for each municipality,” said Julie Saint-Arnaud Drolet, a spokesperson for Elections Quebec. “Of course, if people in the districts or boroughs concerned do not want to vote online, there is no problem: all current voting methods will be maintained.”

In the running to participate in Elections Quebec’s pilot project are Montreal, Quebec City, Laval, Gatineau, Levis, Trois-Rivieres, Terrebonne, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Drummondville, Granby, Mirabel, Rimouski, Rouyn-Noranda, Saint-Georges, Alma, Sainte-Julie, Magog, Beloeil, Baie-Comeau, Saint-Lazare, and Joliette.

An invitation to tender launched in October attracted three multinational companies wishing to build the coveted accessible, reliable, and confidential computer system for Elections Quebec, and both the Spanish company Scytl and the American companies Smartmatic and Voatz claim extensive experience in the field. The selection of the company that will win the contract is expected to take place “before the summer,” according to Julie Saint-Arnaud Drolet, but Elections Quebec reserves the right to cancel the experiment if none of the companies meet its criteria.

“We have cybersecurity requirements, of course, out of concern for respecting the integrity of the electoral process,” said the spokesperson. “We also have requirements related to accessibility: it is very important for us that the platform is easy to use for people who may have different limitations. We also want the platform to be reliable and functional. In a word: efficient.”

Beyond participation, access

Despite a participation rate that peaked at 38.7% in the last municipal elections in 2021, it is not with the primary ambition of attracting more people to the polls that Elections Quebec is venturing into internet voting.

“People often believe that we are doing this to increase the participation rate. Of course, Elections Quebec wants the highest number of voters to exercise their right to vote, but when we look at the experiences already conducted elsewhere in Canada and in the world, we cannot conclude that online voting increases participation,” emphasizes Julie Saint-Arnaud Drolet.

It is therefore primarily to “facilitate access to voting” that Elections Quebec is exploring online voting.

However, Quebec is not expected to vote online in the 2026 general elections: first, the experience that will have taken place on a smaller scale, at the municipal level, will need to be studied before continuing the adventure. “If people use and appreciate the method in 2025, if the platform is reliable and if the electoral process runs smoothly, we can consider this first trial a success. From there, we will consider the possibility of continuing with other pilot projects in provincial elections.”

“We also want social acceptability to be there, so that those who do not vote online, and even the elected officials, have confidence in the integrity of the elections,” the spokesperson added.

The Quebec Federation of Municipalities and the Union of Quebec Municipalities welcome Elections Quebec’s initiative. “We want to see the results of this pilot project,” said the president of the former, Jacques Demers, in writing, while the UMQ ensures that these will “fuel [the] thinking for the future.”

In Rimouski, the interest shown to Elections Quebec in participating in the trial in 2025 is “with a view to facilitating and modernizing” the democratic process, explains Frédéric Savard, press attaché for Mayor Guy Caron. “The pilot project could also have positive impacts on the participation rate and would optimize the conduct of in-person voting.”

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