The most recent municipal elections in Quebec brought their share of challenges, and approximately thirty applications for judicial recounts were filed with the Court of Quebec following the November 7 elections.

However, notably in the Tannous v. Dreyfuss[1] and Morgan v. Decaluwe[2], the Court reiterated that the right to a judicial recount is not an absolute right. The Court adds that even a discrepancy of a single vote is not sufficient grounds for granting a recount to a defeated candidate[3].

Moreover, the Court restates that the election results compiled by the Presiding Officer of an election are presumed to be accurate[4] and that an application for a judicial recount will only be granted if the applicant raises “reasonable grounds to believe” that the results are irregular[5].

In this regard, the Honourable Sylvain Coutlée ruled that the person requesting the recount must demonstrate, with preponderant proof, a “reasonable probability” of irregularities that could have tainted the outcome of the vote. The Court states that, although a prima facie case is sufficient, the grounds for contesting the recount must nevertheless be particularized. In other words, it is on the one hand a subjective exercise, i.e., the plaintiff must believe in the possibility of the alleged irregularity, but on the other hand, it is also an objective exercise, i.e., a reasonable person placed in the same circumstances would also come to the preliminary conclusion of a possible irregularity of the results of the vote.

In the Dreyfuss and Decaluwe affairs cited above, the plaintiffs Tannous and Morgan both alleged that the lists of voters provided to the political parties by the Elections’ President, commonly referred to as the “bingo sheets”, showed an inconsistency between the lists and the number of voters who actually cast ballots as recorded on the Elections’ President’s official lists.

The Court reminds that the documents issued by the elections’ Presiding Officer benefit from a presumption of validity, whereas the lists of voters provided by the political parties have no probative value. On this basis, the Court determines that this ground for a recount is insufficient.

Specifically in the Morgan affair, the plaintiff alleged that the election officers could have made errors in counting the votes, since instead of counting them one by one, they emptied the ballot boxes on the counting table and the proceeded to count them, which could have caused errors.

However, the Court reminds that the prima facie evidence of an irregularity must be sufficient and that in order to succeed and obtain a judicial recount, the plaintiff must not only meet the subjective element, but also the objective element, by providing evidence based on facts, and not suppositions. Accordingly, and on this other basis, the application was dismissed.

Par François Fournier

[1] 2021 QCCQ 12007

[2] 2021 QCCQ 12 011

[3] Larouche c. Langlois2013 QCCQ 13560Landry c. Leblanc2009 QCCQ 12332.

[4] Roy c. Lebouthillier2010 QCCQ 9125, par. 23-24Côté c. Garon2013 QCCQ 13612Hélie c. Châteauneuf2017 QCCQ 13445, par. 10Roubinet c. Bouchard2017 QCCQ 13811, par. 7Lavoie c. Bilodeau2017 QCCQ 13762, par. 18Gilbert c. Fecteau2017 QCCQ 14045, par. 11Côté c. Garon, 2013 QCCQ 13612, par. 48Larouche c. Langlois2013 QCCQ 13560, par. 11.

[5] Bélanger c. Lamoureux, B.E. 99BE-322 (C.Q.); Goguen c. Hébert2012 QCCQ 7579Caselli c. Péloquin2009 QCCQ 13469.