Thousands improperly registered to vote by mail, NDP recount filings allege

Elections NL registered thousands of voters for a mail-in ballot without following proper protocols, alleges the leader of the NDP in court filings for a recount in her St. John’s district. 

“I understand from speaking to officials at Elections NL that many individuals in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi were added to the voters list without being properly sworn and without providing proper identification,” said Alison Coffin in a sworn affidavit filed Thursday at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court.

Across the province, Coffin’s affidavit claims, “thousands of people were added to the voters list upon having a simple telephone call with Elections NL workers, and were provided with ballots, or in some cases were provided with multiple ballots, without proof of identity. 

“I understand that there was no verification process to ensure that anyone who was added to the voters list was in fact the person they claimed to be, or that they lived in the district in which they voted.”

In an interview Tuesday, Coffin would not name the Elections NL employees who, last week, relayed the allegations to the NDP. But she said “people working with Elections NL reached out to myself and [the] party” and said the individuals in question have intimate knowledge of the voter registration process during the election campaign, a 10-week saga unexpectedly derailed by a COVID-19 outbreak.

In an emailed statement, Chief Electoral Officer Bruce Chaulk, who hasn’t granted an interview since the beginning of March, declined to comment on the allegations.

“As this matter is currently before the courts we have no comment,” wrote Chaulk.

Like Chaulk, a spokesperson for Premier Andrew Furey said “it is inappropriate” for the the Liberal Party to comment on an application before the courts.

But interim PC Party leader David Brazil said, “We have heard similar issues and raised them with Mr. Chaulk and Elections NL throughout the election campaign, which were not addressed.

“The PC Party will look at the St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi recount with interest to see the scale of the irregularities documented through the court process.”

First a recount, then a court challenge?

The NDP’s application for a recount in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi — where Coffin lost by just 53 votes against Liberal candidate John Abbott, the slimmest margin of victory in the election — does not seek to invalidate the results.

“This recount is, ‘Are the numbers right?’ and ‘Let’s get the facts right,'” Coffin said. 

But Coffin said the NDP could also soon file a second application, one called a controverted elections application, which would contest the legitimacy of the election more broadly.

Bruce Chaulk, Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief electoral officer, declined to comment on the NDP’s allegations. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

“There are some discussions underway about that right now.… Beyond St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi, we have a larger concern about democracy and the ability for people to exercise their right to vote,” Coffin said, adding that information may come to light during the recount, which could be useful in a controverted elections challenge.

PCs mum on legal action

Brazil said Tuesday the PC Party has not yet filed any recount requests or challenges.

“A decision on filing any court actions will be made closer to the deadline, as analysis of results remains ongoing,” he said.

An application for a recount must be filed within 10 days after polling day, while a controverted elections application must be submitted within two months from the day after polling day.

In the recount application made April 1, Coffin stated — as party president Kyle Rees wrote in a March letter to Chaulk — that a number of ballots may have been improperly rejected during the vote count, and that the NDP’s sole scrutineer, Judy Vanta, was unable to properly monitor the process.

In a sworn statement submitted as part of the NDP’s recount application, Vanta said Elections NL limited access for scrutineers because of COVID-19 restrictions and that she was allowed to see only the ballots that were considered spoiled. According to the Elections Act, scrutineers for political parties and independent candidates are, in theory, supposed to observe the entire vote count.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Thousands improperly registered to vote by mail, NDP recount filings allege

Aggregated from: CBC | Newfoundland and Labrador News

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