Election 2014 final report: Incomplete. Chief Election Officer makes no mention of serious issues.

Janice Mackenzie(Updated, with CityHallWatch letter to Council, at bottom.) Was the November 15, 2014 Vancouver civic election run smoothly and free of any significant problems and irregularities?

You might be under the impression that everything was perfect if you read Janice Mackenzie’s (Chief Election Officer) report to Council on December 16, 2014.

But we don’t think so. We have covered numerous problems with the election and will provide more information in the coming weeks. Canada sends scrutineers to troubled countries to observe elections, but how are we doing right here at home? Not so good.

Before advance voting got underway, there was a huge outcry over the lack of advance voting stations on the Eastside. The City also cancelled plans to host candidate videos on its website, an idea that has been successfully implemented in other cities and recommended by the Mayor’s own Engaged City Task Force. The printed version of the City’s official Voters’ Guide was reduced in size from the booklet featuring each candidate’s profile and photo in 2011 to become just a fold out map and list of candidates’ names in 2014 (here). The full candidate information was online only (a disadvantage to residents who are not computer literate).

There also were numerous election sign violations, and rules were applied arbitrarily and inconsistently. In clear violation of legislation, City officials refused to show candidate nomination papers to investigative journalist Bob Mackin when requested on October 10th (Chief election officer may have broken the law), and the public was left with only one day to scrutinize filed papers at the City Clerk’s Office (from the originals) on Tuesday, October 14th, meaning that if there were problems with the documents a challenge had to be filed the same day.

The overall trend appears to have been a bias in favour of incumbents on City Council.

Voting dayOn election day, four of the polling stations ran of out ballots (apparently only 279,000 ballots were printed and polling stations were unprepared). Four of the voting stations were extended beyond 8 pm, and people could line up to vote after 8 pm.  There were long waits at times; we reported 90-minute waits at some of the polling stations, which had been reduced in number (reduced to 117 in 2014, from 142 in 2011).

Why was this information omitted? Who will ever be held responsible for the issues on election day? Should there be an independent investigation of how the elections were handled in Vancouver?

From the Chief Election Officers’ final report to City Council, this is the only mention of the turnout and the election (apart from the actual voting and referendum results):

On Saturday, November 15, 2014, a local election was held in the city of Vancouver. There were 415,978 registered voters in the city of Vancouver of which 180,668 voters cast ballots. Voter turnout was 43.4%.
As required under the Vancouver Charter, section 108, on Wednesday, November 19, 2014, as Chief Election Officer, I declared the candidates listed below elected, having received the highest number of votes cast for the respective offices.”

Below is text of a message sent to Mayor and Council before the Chief Election Officer’s report to Regular Council on December 16. It was also distributed to the City Manager, Chief Election Officer, and other officials. Besides an administrative acknowledgement of receipt, we have received no other response. Councillor Adriane Carr asked what opportunities citizens would have to speak to Council about concerns such as these. In response, staff reportedly said the Chief Election Officer’s report met statutory requirements. There appears to be no other formal process to address concerns. Due to a “glitch” with the Council video system, this segment of the meeting was not broadcast by Internet, and no video archive remains, apparently. However, the City did get an audio recording, available online here (the first few seconds of the election report audio clip are missing): http://vancouver.ca/images/web/A1-Local-Election-Results-2014.mp3

Dear Mayor and Vancouver City Council,

We are writing to put on record some concerns about the execution of the 2014 civic election in Vancouver. A large number of our concerns about irregularities and the integrity of the election require further attention, and none of these were covered in the report to Council by the Chief Election Officer
Here is sample of the concerns:
  • It appears the number of “over-votes” (the optical reader counted more than the maximum ten selections) almost quadrupled, from 159 in 2011 to 593 in 2014. In effect, the choices of 593 voters were rejected. This is a significant number, considering the fact that the difference between the last councillor elected and first not-elected was only 598. What steps were taken to ensure this huge jump was not due to technical problems and reader errors with the new optical readers? We have been informed that citizens are not permitted to inspect the cards in question to verify accuracy of the machines. 
  • It appears a large number of voters may have voted without displaying the identification required by law. We have reports that suggest that tens of thousands of people may have voted simply by showing a voter card. There are many scenarios in which a person may have voted without being the registered voter.
  • The printed information about candidates provided by the City of Vancouver was in far less detail than in past elections, which gave a major disadvantage to persons with limited access and ability to use the Internet. Seniors could have been significantly affected. This could have skewed election results, as these people would have less information to make a decision, compared to previous elections.
  • Enforcement of rules regarding election signs was arbitrary and inconsistent.
  • Insufficient capacity to provide assistance to persons with disabilities.
  • The shortage of voting cards resulted in long waits at several polling stations, which according to anecdotal reports, led to some voters giving up on voting that day.
  • Inequity in distribution of advance voting stations gave less voting opportunity to voters on the Eastside of Vancouver.
  • Misleading information was provided by information cards from the City of Vancouver about the proximity of voting stations. Academic research has shown that this could lead to voter disenfranchisement.
  • Reports of technical glitches with voting machines. In some cases ballots were exposed when being fed into the machines. This would be a violation of the Vancouver Charter, which prohibits anyone to “induce a person, directly or indirectly, to show a ballot in a way that reveals how the person voted.”
  • This was the first year using the web-based voter strikeoff system by a firm named DataFix to manage voting information in real time. Citizens should expect a review of how this system worked. 
  • This was the first year in which voters could vote at any polling station in the City. Citizens should expect a review of how well or poorly this system worked.
Our actual list of concerns is much longer.
We are still awaiting a response from Elections BC about a possible violation of legislation by one party having sent e-mail to voters on election day.
R. Helten
Coordinator, CityHallWatch Media Foundation

3 thoughts on “Election 2014 final report: Incomplete. Chief Election Officer makes no mention of serious issues.

  1. My opinion is that this woman must be removed as Chief Election Officer too many screw ups at Election time, that is why we now have and continue to have a bad municipal government!

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