Complaints over school board elections as people turned away

Long line-ups, voters' names being kept off lists, and allegedly biased polling stations are among the complaints being made regarding today’s school board election.

Long lines and voters' lists causing problems during first school board election in seven years

Former teacher Barbara Johnson went to vote in the school board elections but was told she could not, because her name is not on the voters' list. (CBC)

Complaints are pouring in as voters mark their ballot for the first school board election in seven years.

Long line-ups, voters not being able to vote, and allegedly biased polling stations are among the problems being reported regarding today's school board election.

Long lines deter voters

Although some voters reported no line-ups at all, others say the line was hours long.

Priya Karnick took her elderly parents to vote at John Rennie High School in Pointe-Claire, only to discover about 100 people were in front of her.

She told CBC News she let her parents join the line while she parked the car. When she joined them, she said she was accosted by an election worker, who accused her of jumping the line.

“I’m here like, well, I parked the car for my handicapped father, thinking it’s not your business either way, and I’m here now in line,” she said.

She said the way she was treated by the election worker caused her to leave before voting. She left shortly afterwards.

Others have reported long lines in Verdun's Riverview School.

Voters' list problems

Other people arrived at polling stations and were told they wouldn't be able to vote because their name is not on the voters' list.

Andrew Johnson took his mother, Barbara, to Westmount High School to cast her ballot. A former teacher, Barbara made the trip despite health issues. She wears a neck brace and walks with two canes to support her.

When she arrived, she was told she couldn’t vote.

“To come all this way and say ‘you’re not on the list’... I am really disappointed,” she said.

Andrew Johnson said there should be a method to add people to the list the day of, similar to federal elections.

'“To come all this way and say ‘you’re not on the list’... I am really disappointed"- Barbara Johnson, former teacher

“To be prevented from voting, I just don’t see why. There is no reason for it.”

The school boards have been plagued with problems with the voters' lists for months.

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.

However, today, Anne Lagacé-Dowson’s campaign is alleging that some people who were not on the voters list have been allowed to vote.

Official complaint launched

On Sunday afternoon, the Lagacé-Dowson campaign filed a formal complaint with Elections Quebec outlining a few separate issues.

In an email addressed to Elections Québec, the campaign says there have been “irregularities” at Ward 7 (Montreal North) Poll #26 Gerald McShane school.

It alleges eight people who were not on the voters list were allowed to vote. The campaign also says a voter saw a candidates' business card with a picture on it inside the voting booth.

High stakes election

Voter turnout in the 2007 school board elections was only 7.9 per cent. The participation rate at English boards was 16.7 per cent.

This is also the first time there`s been a vote since school board elections were reformed.

Since 2007, the number of electoral districts went from 23 to 10.

Today is the first school board election since 2007, and Quebec’s Education Minister Yves Bolduc has indicated that if voter turnout is low – as has been, traditionally – the government may abolish school boards.

Polls are open on Sunday until 8p.m. EST.