News that procedures during Sooke’s recent civic byelection may have allowed individuals to vote more than once, coupled with the very close election results, could lead the second-place candidate to reconsider a court challenge.
“It’s certainly raising some concerns,” said Kevin Pearson, who was beaten out by only three votes to Dana Lajeunesse.
“My original concern was the closeness of the outcome and whether there would be a recount. I was told that they would not be recounting or auditing the results unless I went the legal route and asked for a judicial review. I wasn’t inclined to do that. With this information, though, I’ll be looking at the situation and make a decision when I get back to town.”
The controversy started early this week when some voters in the district sounded the alarm over their observation that despite having voted in the advance polls, their names had not been struck from the voter rolls being used on election day.
“I was told that there is more than one list and that when you sign by your name you’re saying that you haven’t already voted,” said Josh Burneau, after noticing his parent’s names were still on the voting list, despite the fact that they had already voted.
“The way I see it, that means that people could have voted up to three times with two advance voting opportunities and the vote on election day.”
Melanie Burneau was also concerned with the situation and communicated her concerns to the district’s chief electoral officer, Carolyn Mushata. She was told that every voter had to sign the rolls and make a “solemn declaration” that they had not voted already and that “the district relies upon … this declaration.”
“The District of Sooke has different lists with duplicate names and assumes that everyone is honest and would not vote more than once,” said Melanie Burneau.
“I’m in no way saying that there have been people voting more than once, but I am saying that the potential for this is present.”
An eligible elector, candidate, candidate representative, or the local chief election officer may apply to the provincial court for a judicial recount, according to provincial regulations
The period to apply that recount would end on Monday (Oct 7).
However, a judicial recount is only one option available. If any of the parties wished to challenge the validity of the election due to the procedures that had been followed, they would have 30 days to do so after the declaration of the official election results.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs said it cannot compel a local government to conduct an audit of a local election.
“A minister cannot compel a local government to conduct an audit of a local election. A challenge of the election must take place through the courts.,” said a Municipal Affairs Ministery spokesperson.
“If a candidate, a chief election officer, or four voters wish to challenge the validity of an election including the eligibility of electors to vote they can file an application with the provincial court. The provincial court may determine the election invalid and require another election to be held.”