The weakness of the proposed recount procedure in Ward Three

Posted November 7, 2014

City Clerk, Stephen O’Brien, has indicated that nine vote counting machines will be used to conduct the Ward Three recount regarding the five-vote difference between incumbent Coun. June Hofland and challenger, Craig Chamberlain.

This is all well and good as the machines re-run the paper and Internet ballots once again. What does this prove? That the machines were calibrated correctly in the first place?

Two apparent election anomalies occurred the night of the election.

First, there was a late rush to vote at the Dublin Street Ward Three poll the night of the election. There were line-ups to beat the 8 p.m. deadline. Why did this occur? With three opportunities to cast a vote via the Internet, advance poll and during a ten-hour window on election day, why the sudden last minute surge at that particular poll?

Then there is the malfunction of a machine in one of the Ward Three polls in which it would not accept the ballots. Instead they were gathered and taken to City Hall to be tabulated in another machine. This is a serious breach of procedure.

The uncounted ballots should have been placed in a sealed envelope, signed by the poll officials and turned over to the chief elections officer. The poll worker who set the ballots aside should be present when the envelope is open to ensure the poll count of the number of ballots is the same at City Hall.

Most important, is that both Ms. Hofland and Mr. Chamberlain and their representatives, should have the right to examine all ballots pertaining the Ward Three cast on election day and in the advance poll.

Otherwise, the recount will only result in a re-run of the official count the day after the election. Even then, Ms. Hofland’s margin of victory went from two votes Monday night to five votes the next day.

There appears to be errors in the calibration of the machines. The key to a true recount is examination of the actual ballots before they are processed through the machines. This should be monitored by each candidate’s representatives those appointed as scrutineers.

This can be a two edged sword as there could be enough evidence of spoiled ballots that could affect the outcome in either Ms. Hofland’s favour or that of Mr. Chamberlain.

But it is the only way to determine a true outcome of the Ward Three council election.

The Ward Three electors deserve to know that the recount was conducted in a thorough and fair manner including the candidates being able to examine the ballots before processing.

There is a reason for reluctance on the part of the city election managers to allow examinination of the ballots. The city’s omnibus ballot contains the names of candidates running in each ward, plus the mayoralty and school board candidates.

Examining each ballot raises the potential of changing the final outcome in races not involved in the Ward Three council contest.

It is important for chief electoral officer, City Clerk Stephen O’Brien, to ensure that the Ward Three council count is true and accurate. To his credit, he is recommending that council approve the recount. He does have the power to allow examination of the ballots.

That ballot examination is a vital component of this recount.

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