Irregularities in the way absentee ballots were counted may have altered the outcome in Richmond-Queensborough, according to the B.C. NDP.
Aman Singh, the B.C. NDP candidate for Richmond-Queensborough, could be filing for a judicial recount in the next few days, Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, campaign coordinator told the Record.
“There were a couple of voter irregularities that we identified quite clearly. One being people were given actual ballots in New Westminster when they were supposed to vote in Queensborough, instead of being given absentee write-in ballots,” Puchmayr said.
A judicial recount is made to the Supreme Court of B.C. and must be made within six days of the declaration of official election results. Candidates or voters can ask for a judicial recount if ballots were not counted correctly, or if a ballot account does not accurately record the votes cast for a candidate, according to Elections B.C.
It’ll be up to the NDP lawyers to decide whether to proceed with the request, but Puchmayr is confident there is enough evidence to move forward.
He alleged some ’Boro residents who voted in mainland New Westminster weren’t given blank absentee ballots, as required. Instead, Puchmayr said they were given ballots meant for residents of the New Westminster electoral district that had the names of candidates running in New West.
“When they came out of the envelopes, the district elections officer denied them,” he said.
Puchmayr argued absentee Queensborough voters should never have been issued the New Westminster ballots in the first place. In fact, he would have liked to see Elections B.C. do a better job to help Queensborough residents who chose to vote outside their polling station – a process he called unusual and complex.
“It was an error on Elections B.C.’s part.”
The new riding realignment, which lumped New Westminster’s Queensborough neighbourhood in with the eastern part of Richmond to create the new riding of Richmond-Queensborough, provided another level of confusion for voters, Singh added.
“I ran into many people on the doorsteps that weren’t even aware there was a realignment and that they weren’t a part of New West anymore, and they weren’t very happy,” he said.
The confusion was evident on some of the absentee ballots completed by Queensborough residents. They featured New Westminster NDP candidate Judy Darcy’s name instead of Singh’s, according to Puchmayr.
On the first day absentee ballots were counted, ballots with B.C. NDP leader John Horgan’s name or Darcy’s name and NDP written out were counted in favour of Singh, Puchmayr said. But the next day the electoral officer decided to count the ballots differently, and when Puchmayr objected, the officer decided to recount the ballots from the previous day as well.
“After closing the vote on Monday, they had already identified that those votes were in favour of one party or another and changing the rules the next day, to reverse that, I feel is an issue,” he said.
In all, there were 172 rejected ballots in Richmond-Queensborough, according to Puchmayr.
“There is enough rejected ballots that would make the difference in this election,” he said.
And Singh agrees.
“It’s a really high number of rejected ballots, so I think there’s something to be looked at there,” he said.
Singh lost the race in Richmond-Queensborough with 8,084 votes – 134 fewer than Jas Johal of the B.C. Liberal Party, who won with 8,218 votes.
Johal said he’s not worried about a possible judicial recount, and he just wants to get to work.
“I’ll let the process unfold, as it should. I’m pleased with the results, and I’m just looking forward to serving the needs of residents of Richmond-Queensborough,” he told the Record.
“At the end of the day, I think people need to remind themselves, having covered war zones and revolutions, I got to tell you, whatever transpires in an election, no shots were fired, no one was injured, there was no riots, this was democracy at work and we should be very fortunate.”
Elections B.C. was expected to release the official election results Wednesday evening, after Record deadlines.