The long and complicated judicial recount of the Chilliwack school board election finally ended Friday evening and nothing changed.
After two days of more than 15 election officials recounting nearly 25,000 ballots, all overseen by lawyers and a provincial court judge, attended by numerous candidates, just one vote changed for the two parties in question.
Jared Mumford retains the seventh seat on the school board that he won on election night with Kaethe Jones finishing in eighth.
It was Jones who applied to the court for a recount after she finished with 7,011 votes in the Oct. 20 vote, just 34 votes behind Mumford’s 7,045. After the recount Mumford is declared to have finished with 7,044 votes, 33 ahead of Jones’ 7,011.
Two ballots counted at the Sardis poll on election night seemed to have gone missing, were not counted in the recount, and that led to the one vote for Mumford being taken away from his total.
Only four other out of the 24,700 ballots were viewed differently during the recount than on election night. One rejected ballot was accepted leading to one more vote for Kelly Janveux; one vote had been rejected for Heather Maahs that the judge accepted; and one vote each for Sylvia Dyck and Barry Neufeld that a machine accepted were rejected in the recount.
Part of what led to the application for the recount was confusion over why Mumford’s preliminary vote total on election note was actually 80 votes higher than the final audited results. Before the recount, however, chief election officer Carol Friesen attributed the discrepancy to officials at a polling station misreading a zero for an eight while calling in preliminary results.
Affidavits from scrutineers for Jones’ fellow candidate Barry Neufeld claimed improprieties at various voting places. One in particular alleged a discrepancy at a voting machine at Promontory Heights elementary after a power surge that followed an outage in the area on election day.
But in the end, the ballots received and approved by election officials on election day almost precisely matched those same ballots going through the same machines under the scrutiny of a judge.
“The only change in the vote between the election count and this vote that related to the two candidates was the fact that Mr. Mumford had one fewer vote,” Ormiston read in her decision. “That is because it seem two ballots from the Sardis poll were not counted.”
Election officials, sheriffs, candidates and supporters arrived at Evergreen Hall before 10 a.m. on Thursday to prepare for the count. In addition to Mumford and Jones, other school board election candidates in attendance for all or some of the day included Michael Prill, Dan Coulter, Willow Reichelt, David Swankey, Meghan Reid, Heather Maahs and Barry Neufeld.
Mid-way through the afternoon Friday there was a possibility it would all end as Mumford’s lawyer made a motion to stop the proceedings, arguing that the result was unlikely to have a material difference on the outcome. After officials had recounted approximately two thirds of the ballots, the difference between Mumford and Jones had changed by just one vote, from 34 to 33.
Jones did not oppose that motion, but Judge Andrea Ormiston ruled that the counting should continue considering how far along it had already proceeded.
In rendering her decision, Ormiston pointed to the length of time discussing process it took leading up to even start recounting the ballots on Thursday.
“When we started this judicial recount we spent a lot of time talking about process and it was exhausting, and it may have seemed unnecessary,” she said. “But it is the care that we put in the process that makes me totally confident in the decision that we arrive at today.”