School Board elections - Many voters couldn’t vote
Turnout for the School Board elections in our region was not too bad when compared to the provincial rate of participation which was less than 5 %. In the Hatley-Stanstead ward, 14.6 % of eligible voters actually voted, choosing Claire Beaubien over Barbara Heath and David Wright. In the Lennoxville-Fleurimont ward, where voter participation was the highest of all the ETSB wards at 18 %, Gordon Barnett beat out Steve Coté and Douglas Sullivan. Across the province, the voter participation rate went up for the English School Boards and down for their French counterparts.
“I was very happy with the results,” commented Ms. Beaubien, the retired educator who received 51.44 % of the vote while Ms. Heath got 33.45 % and Mr. Wright got 15.11%. “We’ll have our first meeting on November 25th and I’m looking forward to that, learning about the committees and then choosing the ones that are close to my heart,” she added.
As in other wards around the province, many people were disappointed when they showed up to vote, learning too late that they were not on the ETSB’s voting list. “I know some people who were angry that they couldn’t vote. A neighbor of mine, whose kids all went to English school here, learnt that her name had been taken off the English list and put on the French list. I’m not sure why the government would want to make it difficult to vote,” said Ms. Beaubien.
“We had about twentyfive or thirty people who presented at the polls but weren’t on the ETSB voters list. We also got a lot of phone-calls before the election from people who couldn’t vote,” explained the Returning Officer for the ETSB, Pauline Lazure. “One problem was that many people
didn’t read the voting card that they received in the mail, telling them which voter list they were on. Another problem was the timeline between the time the cards were sent out and the deadline to change lists, on October 14th; we had eleven days to revise the list. Especially in rural areas, it can take longer for people to get their mail,” said Ms. Lazure.
It is the Quebec government’s Chief Electoral Officer who makes up the voting lists, sending them on to the school boards. Many people who thought they could vote in the English School Board elections found out either that they had never been on the list or that their names had been removed from the list for one reason or another. For example, once students hit eighteen, even if they have been going to English schools, their names are put on the French school board list. “I think this election will be an eye-opener for the government,” added the Returning Officer.
“We’d like to thank those people who voted and those who worked at the polling stations. It all went well except for those who couldn’t vote,” concluded Ms. Lazure.
Following Sunday’s election, Quebec Education Minister Yves Bolduc declared that, in light of the low voter turnout, big changes would be coming to the school board system.
Gordon Barnett won the Lennoxville-Fleurimont ward with a landslide.
A small group watches the election results at the ETSB headquarters on Sunday night.