Ballots from outside Ward 4 byelection being counted by mistake

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on February 18, 2016

Voting problems continue to dog the Ward 4 byelection in St. John’s.

Candidate Matt White told The Telegram on Thursday he discovered streets outside of the ward — which had previously been sent ballots in error — were having their ballots counted.

Candidates are sent a list every day of which streets have voted, said White, and Churchill Avenue was on a recent list, prompting him to check other lists, and found votes had also come in from Russell Street and Crosbie Drive. He said he counted 20 votes from outside the ward.

“That’s only what I found,” he said, adding that he understands the confusion in mailing out the ballots, because the names are similar to streets that are in the ward. “We were all assured … that these ballots won’t be counted, because they can scan barcodes as the letters come in.”

Following a request late Thursday afternoon for a response from the city, a spokeswoman provided a statement from Elaine Henley, the byelection returning officer, who acknowledged the error, and said once the voter declaration form is separated from the ballot, there is no way of retrieving and discarding the ballots.

“We apologize for this; it is our hope that these votes will have no bearing on the election overall, given the large number of voters in this ward,” says the statement. “If the errors have a bearing on the results, we will consult the Elections Act and seek further direction.”

White said he and the other candidates are concerned the integrity of the election has been compromised and wants to see a new system in place for future elections.

“There’s been people left off the voters list with no reasonable explanation. There’s been entire streets left off,” he said.

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com, Twitter: @DanMacEachern