Brendan Edge might have thought that running for the Green Party in a Quebec election would be tough. The hard part turned out to be getting the right to vote.
Mr. Edge, a 21-year-old McGill University student originally from Ontario, finally won his legal bid to get on Quebec’s voters’ list on Friday after a Superior Court judge ruled in his favour in his offensive against the Quebec director of elections.
But Mr. Edge was the lone victor among five out-of-province McGill students who took the extraordinary step of launching a legal battle to register for Monday’s vote. The judge excluded the other four but granted an emergency injunction with just days to go in the case of Mr. Edge.
Justice Robert Mongeon said it was “difficult to understand” how elections officials could accept Mr. Edge as a candidate but not a voter. There were few ways to better demonstrate one’s commitment to Quebec than running for office, the judge said from the bench.
But Justice Mongeon ruled against the other four McGill students in the case, which was set against the backdrop of one of Quebec’s most intense and closely watched election races.
All five students had been rejected as eligible voters after revisions officers said they failed to meet the test of “domicile,” which lies at the heart of the dispute. Quebec electoral law says voters must live in the province for six months and also prove the intention of making the province home.
The judge ruled against two of the McGill students because they turned 18 less than six months ago, and in legal terms did not meet the domicile rule. The other two presented cases that were not clear-cut, and while the students presented Montreal rental leases and other documents to revisions officers, it was “not unreasonable” for the officers to conclude the pair didn’t meet the domicile requirement, the judge said. Both students were from Ontario, although one of them was born in Quebec.
Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey called the ruling a partial victory, important because it showed that the courts could intervene even in last-minute cases if elections officials made clearly “unreasonable” decisions. Nothing stops the four rejected students from pursuing their cases after the election deadline passes, he said.
A number of out-of-province students studying in Montreal have complained that they faced unreasonable hurdles in trying to persuade elections revisions officers to put them on voters’ lists. Mr. Grey said he took on the McGill students’ cases because he wanted to help them, but he does not believe Quebec election employees are involved in “some sort of cabal to prevent people from voting.”
Mr. Edge, for his part, said he felt “vindicated” by Friday’s decision. The student of Canadian studies and history at McGill is running in the Laval riding of Chomedey, currently held by the Liberals.
“This says I have as much a right to have a say about what goes on here as anyone else,” Mr. Edge said after the ruling, adding that he was “thrilled.”