In the wake of last weekend’s civic byelection in Sooke, a complaint has been lodged with the chief electoral officer claiming voting procedures were unacceptable and open the door to voter fraud.
Sooke resident Josh Burneau raised his concern in an email to Carolyn Mushata, the district’s chief electoral officer, on Monday.
Burneau went to vote Saturday when he noticed his parent’s names (listed next to his) were still on the list and had not been crossed off.
As he was aware his parents had voted in the advance poll, he asked how this was possible.
“I was told that there is more than one list and that when you sign by your name you’re saying that you haven’t already voted,” Burneau said.
“The way I see it, that means that people could have voted three times with two advance voting opportunities and the vote on election day.”
The email response the Burneau family received from Mushata did little to allay their concerns.
It read, in part: “In accordance with section 126 of the Local Government Act, each voter must make a solemn declaration in order to receive their ballot. This declaration states that they are not disqualified from voting and that they have not previously voted in this election.”
Melanie Burneau, Josh’s mom, was not happy with that response, asking: “So you just take a voters word that they didn’t previously vote?”
Mushata told the Sooke News Mirror that, while it was possible that someone who was willing to make a false declaration may have voted more than once, she had never seen it happen.
“I’ve audited many elections and never once have I seen that happen,” Mushata said.
She added given the Burneau’s complaint an audit of the byelection might be conducted but would not commit to that step being taken.
“I’ll be away until Monday, and when I get back we’ll look at it, but there’s no guarantee we’ll do it, and there’s no time-line for that sort of thing. It could take some time if we choose to do it.”
And while the system appears to rely largely on the honesty of voters and their respect for the process, the incidence of voter fraud is not unknown.
In 2018 the RCMP reported that they found 67 fraudulent applications to vote by mail in Surrey, and at the same time the City of Vancouver released a statement saying they were aware of fraudulent activities in Richmond, Burnaby, and Vancouver.
The News Mirror reached out to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, which has jurisdiction over local elections, but did not receive an immediate reply.
Saturday’s byelection was decided in favour of Dana Lajeunesse by a margin of only three votes.
There have been no specific allegations of voter fraud in Sooke’s election or any indications that such fraud took place.