Friday, May 18, 2012

Etobicoke Federal Election Result Overturned Due to Irregularities by Election Canada

Former Liberal MP Wrzesnewskyj convinced a Toronto Judge of sufficient evidence to overturn the 2011 federal election result for the Etobicoke constituency, in which Conservative candidate Optiz won. Now there will be a byelection to determine who represents the constituency. Elections Canada was at fault for overturning the result due to irregularities in its administration of the vote count in the constituency. It is unclear whether or not the issue with Elections Canada is incompetence or corruption. Insufficient funding is ruled out as an issue. In addition, there were voters who voted more than once. It is unclear if they were associated with a federal political party.

From CBCNews,

Toronto riding's election result tossed by judge

Conservative MP Ted Opitz's 2011 federal election win last year in Etobicoke Centre was declared null and void today in a challenge by former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

Opitz won the May 2011 election by 26 votes, but Wrzesnewskyj challenged the results over voting irregularities. The case required more than 26 votes be thrown out for it to be declared void.
Conservative Party spokesman Fred Delorey said they're disappointed with the court decision after 52,000 people in Etobicoke Centre "followed the rules, cast their ballots and today had their democratic decision thrown into doubt."

"The judge has found problems with the way that Elections Canada ran the election in this riding," he said in an emailed statement.

"As the judge took care to point out in the decision, Ted Opitz and the Conservative campaign team followed the rules.

Wrzesnewskyj told CBC News that the riding needs a by-election to restore democracy.
"Something broke in the last federal election," he said. "It's a terrible thought not to know whether or not someone who is in the House of Commons, voting on laws by which we govern ourselves, whether those individuals are actually an expression of the will of the people."

He and the Conservatives seem to agree there's a need for more training for the volunteers and temporary workers the election agency takes on in advance of voting day.

"Elections Canada has to have the resources to properly train their officials, to make sure that people who vote are — it's as basic as making sure that they actually are Canadian citizens."
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae wrote a celebratory message on Twitter.

"Borys wins ! And now for round 2...," he tweeted.

Justice Thomas Lederer set aside 79 ballots in his decision Friday in Toronto. Opitz has eight days to appeal. If he does, the case would be heard as soon as possible by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Wrzesnewskyj's lawyer had argued up to 181 ballots were in dispute.

The voting irregularities included some people who weren't on the list but cast ballots after being vouched for by others at the polling station, some people without the proper paperwork completed, and others in which voters cast ballots when they were registered at other polling stations or didn't live in the riding.
Lederer said the core of the case was about the "confidence that Canadians must have in our electoral process."

"If that confidence is diminished, it follows that our interest in, and respect for, government will be similarly diminished. It surely follows that if people who are not qualified to vote were permitted to do so, or if there is a concern that people may have been permitted to vote more than once, confidence in our electoral process will fade."

Lederer noted that it seemed the election was conducted by responsible public officials and well-intentioned individuals who were motivated by nothing less than a desire to do the job properly.

But it can't be good enough to accept some people voted by registration and without registration certificates, without poll books recording who vouched for whom, and without having their names on the final list of voters.

"Our system requires more," Lederer wrote in the 40-page decision.

Elections Canada wouldn't comment on the decision in case there's an appeal.

Under a court order, Wrzesnewskyj's lawyers were able to examine the ballots at 10 polling divisions, as well as poll books and electors' lists at Elections Canada's office in Ottawa.

The test to declare the election invalid, and trigger a byelection (after any appeals are exhausted), was a finding that more than 26 ballots, the losing margin, should not have been counted.

Particularly outstanding is what went on in Polling Division 31, located in a church in Etobicoke. Eighty-six people voted by registration certificate on May 2, meaning they showed up without a voter identification card. Wrzesnewsky's lawyers claim that 68 of those voters actually lived in another polling division and should never have been allowed to vote at polling station 31. Lederer threw out 15 ballots in that polling division.

Two of those voters gave addresses outside the riding and their ballots should be discarded, the lawyers claim. And 32 voters were already on the electors' list in that polling division or others nearby, suggesting it's possible they voted twice.

In another polling division in the riding, five voters who voted by registration certificate are listed as being crossed off the electors' list in another polling division, indicating they most likely did vote twice.

In one polling division, both the deputy returning officer and the polling clerk vouched for more than one voter who showed up without ID, something that, as Elections Canada employees, they should have known was illegal. Lederer threw out the four votes for which they vouched.

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