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Returning officers

Returning officers' role

Returning officers are responsible for organizing and holding electoral events in their appointed electoral division. They oversee all activities required for the smooth functioning of provincial general elections, by-elections and referendums. They also ensure that voters and candidates are able to fully exercise their rights.

Each returning officer is appointed for a 10-year term following a public competition (in French only) organized by Élections Québec.

Selection process

The selection process consists of three steps:

  1. Candidates are required to complete an electronic registration form, including an evaluation of their experience.
  2. Qualified candidates are then asked to take an online multiple-choice exam.
  3. Successful selected candidates are then invited to attend a selection interview.

Following their appointment, each of the returning officers must select an assistant returning officer in accordance with the rules set by the Chief Electoral Officer. They must also complete a training program administered by the Élections Québec team to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to perform their duties.

Returning officers' responsibilities

Returning officers must be familiar with the characteristics of their electoral division in order to organize electoral events that meet voters' needs. They must also consider their electoral division's geographic, demographic, socioeconomic, institutional and political realities.

When an electoral event is held, returning officers open their main office. Assisted by members of their team, they coordinate and conduct electoral activities for their division. They are also in charge of recruiting election staff, including:

  • Officers in charge of information and order.
  • Revisors.
  • Revising officers.
  • Deputy returning officers.
  • Poll clerks.
  • Members of identity verification panel.
  • Officers in charge of the list of electors.

The above staff perform various specific duties, as set out in Québec's Election Act. The returning officer oversees their training and their initial appointment, based primarily on the political parties' recommendations.

In addition, returning officers are responsible for:

  • Preparing necessary materials.
  • Setting up polling places.
  • Providing voters, political parties and candidates with information on electoral events.
  • Receiving, checking and acknowledging receipt of nomination papers.
  • Coordinating the duplicating and printing of electoral lists and ballot papers.
  • Overseeing advance voting, mobile polling stations and polling day operations.
  • Adding the votes on the day after the election and declaring elected the candidate with the greatest number of votes.

After electoral events, returning officers write a report and take part in a follow-up meeting.

From time to time outside of election periods, returning officers take part in the following:

  • Activities involving the establishment of polling subdivisions.
  • Training sessions.
  • Other activities for which their expertise is required.

Eligibility conditions and ethical standards

Québec's returning officers perform their duties on behalf of the Chief Electoral Officer and are responsible for managing public funds. In that regard, their mandate falls within the public interest. For that reason, returning officers are subject to various eligibility conditions and ethical standards.

Returning officers must demonstrate impartiality, integrity and discretion. In addition to showing a sense of reserve in political matters, they are not allowed to be a member of any political party. They must be vigilant and transparent when awarding supply contracts for goods or services. Finally, returning officers must comply with the Chief Electoral Officer's directives; at the Chief Electoral Officer's request, they must work collaboratively with a view to studying, testing and assessing new electoral processes.