Dick Harrington claims he was denied voters’ list

City of Chilliwack: But Chilliwack says it amended its Election Procedures Bylaw in 1996.

Dick Harrington plans to run for a seat on council with the aim of making a 'clean sweep' in the election.

Dick Harrington, who plans to take another shot at city council, is accusing the current Chilliwack administration of denying democracy to candidates.

Harrington challenged mayor Sharon Gaetz on Wednesday to justify the “decision to keep Chilliwack’s voters list secret.”

The retired educator and businessman alleged in a news release that his campaign has been “denied” access to the list of eligible voters in Chilliwack, which could be used to register or contact voters about the issues.

But a City of Chilliwack spokesperson said that contrary to Harrington’s accusations, mayor and council “are not involved in the administration of municipal elections and are unable to influence election officials in any manner.”

Carol Friesen was appointed Chief Election Officer last summer and is the one responsible for all aspects of the Chilliwack election.

Chilliwack follows “poll book” election procedures whereby voters register by signing a poll book rather than creating and printing a voters’ list just for Chilliwack, which is why Harrington was unable to get a copy.

“This process saves the time and expense of refining the Provincial Voters’ List to coincide with our municipal boundaries and the cost of updating the list on a regular basis,” according to the news release by the city.

“The benefits to this method include a huge cost savings and a significant savings in staff time.

“It also expedites the voting process, offering the greatest level of access to voters.”

Harrington said it was his understanding that the city “simply had to request the list” from Elections BC in order to share it with candidates, for example, and that refusing it was unacceptable.

“We need to give Chilliwack a clean sweep and elect a council that cares about democracy!”

He also stated in the release that Mayor Gaetz could fix the situation “with a stroke of a pen” and that council was deliberately keeping people “in the dark.”

But that’s not the case, responded city officials.

“There is deliberate separation between elected officials and the operation of the election to ensure there is no political interference in the process,” according to the city press release from Jamie Leggatt, communications manager for City of Chilliwack.

Council amended the Election Procedures Bylaw in 1996 in order to discontinue the use of the Provincial Voters’ List. Harrington’s request is in fact the first time anyone has sought out a copy of the voters’ list since changes were made to the local election procedures back in 1996.

The official nomination period is not even officially open yet. It runs from Tuesday, September 30 at 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, October 10. Although anyone can obtain nomination packages now, they cannot file them yet. Candidates will be confirmed by Friesen only once the nomination period closes.

For more information about the administration of the Chilliwack local election, call 604.793.8081 or chwkgenelection2014@gmail.com

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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