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NPA Coun. George Affleck seeks review of 2014 Vancouver election

NPA Coun.
An NPA city councillor wants a review of the November 2014 civic election to get answers to questions raised about irregularities on voting day. Photo Dan Toulgoet

NPA Coun. George Affleck wants city staff to review the November 2014 civic election so concerns that voters raised with him about insufficient ballots, inconsistent checking of voter identification, spoiled ballots and long waits at polling stations can be answered.

Affleck, who finished second in the council race, will introduce a motion at the Jan. 20 meeting of city council. He said his request is based on citizens’ complaints to him and media reports that identified confusion and irregularities at polling stations, some of which stayed open 45 minutes later than the mandated closing time.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” said Affleck, noting he drafted a similar motion in November but didn’t table it because of concerns raised by the city’s legal department. “It was too aggressive, I guess.”

Affleck said he also wants some clarity on what “over-voting” means, a term the city’s chief election officer Janice Mackenzie has used to explain when a person votes for more candidates than there are positions.

According to the city’s communications department, there were 593 ballots where voters cast votes for more than the allotted positions. So, for example, if a person voted for 12 councillors instead of the allotted 10, that would be considered an “over-vote.”

The voter would be alerted at the mistake by the electronic vote tabulator. The voter would have the choice to cast a new ballot — the old one would be spoiled — or leave it as is.

The city said there were 5,930 “over-votes” in the race for the 10 spots on council.

“This figure presents the number of votes that were not counted due to the voter making an excess number of votes for a given race,” said an emailed statement from the city to the Courier. “For the councillor race, an over-vote of 10 was recorded whenever a voter selected more than the allowed number of votes for that race. Therefore, the 5,930 ‘over-votes’ recorded for the councillor race translates into 593 ballots.”

The NPA’s Ian Robertson, who finished one spot out of a council seat by 513 votes, said he fully supports Affleck’s motion. Robertson acknowledged all 593 ballots may not have included votes for him but he said a review of the election would give candidates and the public clarity on outstanding issues that surfaced on voting day. 

“The election is over and I’ve moved on, but it doesn’t change how I feel that there were some irregularities,” Robertson said. “They should be looked at.”

Added Robertson, whose party is represented by three NPA councillors: “Having an additional NPA council member certainly would change the conversation within the council chambers.”

Mayor Gregor Robertson and six Vision councillors were re-elected in November, giving the party a majority. Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs won the 10th and final council spot.

When told Affleck wants a review of the election, Meggs said he didn’t have a problem with “people getting as informed as they wish to be about the democratic process, but I don’t know there’s a lot to be learned by it.”

Added Meggs: “I think there was a lot of scrutiny at the time about some of the shortages of ballots and things like that. But if [Affleck] is simply asking staff to report on their own work, I don’t see any problem with it.”

The city spent more than $2 million on the election, with some of that cost going to almost tripling the number of advanced voting days to eight. For the first time ever, voters were able to vote at any polling station in the city and cast ballots in the Oakridge and International Village malls, the Vancouver Art Gallery and some post-secondary institutions.

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