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Quebec tries to accommodate observant Jews who won’t be able to vote on election day

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A ballot box (Pixabay photo)

The Quebec provincial election falls on Oct. 1, which is Shemini Atzeret, the eighth and final day of Sukkot. It’s a date the government did not choose and cannot alter, given that, in 2013, the national assembly passed legislation that establishes fixed elections on the first Monday in October every four years.

The advance polls on Sept. 23 and 24 also partially conflict with the start of Sukkot, which begins at sunset on Sept. 23 and continues until nightfall on Sept. 25 – a time when observant Jews cannot vote.

Advance voting will also be possible in the office of the returning officer in each riding on Sept. 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27.

READ: QUEBEC’S NEW RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATION RULES RAISE CONCERNS

The director general of elections, Pierre Reid, is assuring the Jewish community that advance polls will be open at times when observant Jews can make use of them.

Reid was responding to concerns raised by MNA David Birnbaum, who said that the election date will make it hard for some Jewish people to exercise their right to vote.

Birnbaum has been working with Kathleen Weil, the minister responsible for the reform of democratic institutions and relations with English-speaking Quebecers, and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), to see what can be done to address the issue.

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum

On June 18, Birnbaum released Reid’s answer, which is that there will be enough staff present during the advanced vote to expedite the process, as well as additional measures that he did not specify, in the ridings of D’Arcy McGee, St-Laurent, Mont Royal-Outremont and Mercier, where there are significant Jewish populations.

“Our directors of elections are very familiar with the particularities and the communities of the ridings for which they are responsible and they have already made provisions for sufficient personnel to be present and have prepared additional measures to ensure the smooth operation of the advance vote,” Reid wrote.

Birnbaum describes Reid’s response as positive, stating that, “We acknowledge the efforts of the (director general) to address this situation and we will work closely with CIJA, rabbinical leaders and others to make sure every interested voter gets the fullest opportunity possible to participate in this important election.”

Voting will take place at the following dates and times:

  • election day, Oct. 1: 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
  • advance polls, Sept. 23 and 24: 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • in advance at the returning officer’s office, Sept. 21 (9 a.m.-9 p.m.), Sept. 22 (9 a.m.-5 p.m.), Sept. 25 (9 a.m.-9 p.m.), Sept. 26 (9 a.m.-9 p.m.), and Sept. 27 (9 a.m.-2 p.m.).