A failed Chilliwack school board candidate is asking for a judicial recount.
Kaethe Jones finished eighth in the race for the seven seats on the board with 7,011 votes, just 34 behind the final trustee to be elected, Jared Mumford, who received 7,045 votes.
Jones filed an affidavit in Chilliwack provincial court at the last opportunity on Monday – nine days after the election – that makes numerous claims of suspicious conduct by election officials.
Mumford’s name is on the affidavit as a respondent to the claim along with Chilliwack’s chief election officer Carol Friesen.
Jones’ affidavit relies on claims made by scrutineers employed by incumbent candidate Barnabas (Barry) Neufeld, who finished second in the election. Jones makes the claim that there were “no checks and balances in place to determine whether people had voted more than once.”
She says that Neufeld’s scrutineers also claim election workers weren’t nice to them, some voters were confused about the ballots, and there was some confusion about the voting machines.
“He was made to feel very unwelcome and treated with suspicion by election officials,” Jones’ says of Neufeld’s scrutineer Rodney Phillipson.
The claims of possible voter fraud or miscounted votes come with no physical evidence, but with statements by Neufeld’s scrutineers about what they saw on election day.
Scrutineer Donald Costin claimed in an affidavit that election officials kept their activities “strictly secret from the scrutineers.” Phillipson commented on a voting machine that received 730 votes and was removed after a power failure in the Promontory area as he wondered what happened to those votes.
Jones claims that another scrutineer, Terry Thiessen, was at Chilliwack middle school and witnessed a broken down voting machine that was replaced by one with a larger vote count than the clerk had recorded. He was told the discrepancy had been accounted for but he did not observe steps taken to do so.
The application is unsurprising to many since Jones was among a slate of five anti-SOGI 123 candidates looking to dominate the board in a move to stop the LGBTQ anti-bullying resource from being used by teachers.
With the final audited results released four days after the election, four of the seven elected trustees were supportive of the ministry-approved SOGI 123. Jones, who finished just short of a seat, said in her campaign that her number one priority was “to protect our children from the dangerous influences of the SOGI 123 ideology.”
Not included in the affidavit filed to the court is Neufeld’s suggestion quoted on a website that transgendered people might have voted twice because often they have two sets of identification.
Jones was one of five school board candidates on the anti-SOGI 123 slate. She and Erma Vietorisz did not get elected. Incumbents Heather Maahs, Barry Neufeld and Darrell Furgason did win seats on the board.
The four remaining candidates expressed support for the anti-bullying resource. Along with Mumford, Dan Coulter, David Swankey and Willow Reichelt were elected.
As the final audited municipal election results came in after the election, there were a few adjustments in the vote tallies but none that changed who was elected. Friesen explained that while voting is electronic, the tapes from the voting machines used to get those preliminary results out quickly on election night were hard to read. She said in a few cases, numbers were called in where, for example, a six was mistaken for an eight.
In the case of Mumford whose vote total dropped by 80 from preliminary to final results, it appears a zero was mistaken for an eight, so instead of 582 votes from one poll, he actually received 502.
On Friday, before Jones made the application, Friesen told The Progress it was her belief there was essentially no grounds for a recount because of electronic voting.
The process for a judicial recount as outlined in the Elections Act is that someone has to make an application to the provincial court. The application may be made for one or more of the following reasons: that votes were not correctly accepted or ballots were not correctly rejected; that a ballot account does not accurately record the number of valid votes for a candidate; or that the final determination did not correctly calculate the total number of valid votes for a candidate.
Essentially, there has to be evidence of fraud or a mistake. Before the application was made, Friesen called the results “definitive” and said it would be “ridiculous” to have a recount in this case, and that she doubted any judge would consider it.
Jones will be in court Wednesday morning to ask a judge to do just that. If approved, it would be a laborious process as three candidates finished sixth, seventh and eighth all had between 7,000 and 7,130 votes.
There is already one recount in a nearby election set to be undertaken by a provincial court judge due to a rare tie in votes. In the race for the position of director in Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) Electoral Area C (Hemlock Valley-Harrison Mills-Lake Errock), incumbent Wendy Bales and Annie Silver each received exactly 136 votes.
If the tie is maintained after a judicial recount, which needs to be completed by Nov. 3, they will draw lots to choose the winner.