A room at Evergreen Hall was turned into a temporary court facility Thursday as the process for a judicial recount for the Chilliwack school board election got underway.
Of particular interest is the tally of votes received by the seventh and eighth candidates in the election for the seven-member board.
Jared Mumford won the seventh spot in the Oct. 20 election with 7,045 votes and Kaethe Jones finished eighth with 7,011. Nine days after the election, and at the last possible opportunity, Jones applied for the recount. On Wednesday, provincial court Judge Andrea Ormiston ordered the recount to take place.
Election officials, sheriffs, candidates and supporters were 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.
Also in attendance were lawyers for Mumford and Jones. Both were also allowed as many as five representatives present. And all in the room had to swear an oath of secrecy regarding the ballots.
A court order was also made to allow for The Progress to attend the proceedings, which also allows for photographs and recordings to be made before the recount and after it is completed.
By 2:30 p.m., the counting of ballots had not yet got underway after several hours were spent ironing out details of the process, with lawyers for the two central candidates making submissions for Ormiston to consider.
The first order Ormiston made on the day in response to a submission from Mumford’s lawyer was to open the ballot boxes from Promontory Heights elementary as part of the first votes recounted. That location was the subject of concern for Jones and her lawyer, as it was subject to a power outage followed by a surge that caused one machine to go down.
The deadline for the recount is midnight on Nov. 2 meaning the process needs to happen quickly. There are 24,700 ballots to be counted. Chief election officer Carol Friesen said it takes approximately five seconds for each ballot to run through the voting machine, which would take one machine 34 hours, not counting for handling of the ballots before and after.
Approximately 16 officials were using five machines to count the ballots, a process estimated to take 10 hours.
After the final procedures for the recount were read out by Ormiston, the recounting began at approximately 2:45 p.m. and plans were in place to continue on Friday.
Ormiston also ordered a recount for the position of director for Area C in the Fraser Valley Regional District. In that race, Annie Silver and Wendy Bales each received 136 votes.
That recount is scheduled for a courtroom Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. If the two are still tied after a recount, the winner will be decided by drawing lots.