2014 election followup: “Elections BC has no authority or role in the administration of local elections in British Columbia”

Voting place sign 2014As a part of our election 2014 follow-up, CityHallWatch is putting many aspects of the November 15 Vancouver civic election under the spotlight. This post covers the following:

  • A surprising statement by Elections BC: “Elections BC has no authority or role in the administration of local elections in British Columbia.”

…. Sooooo, who does have authority? A future post will show what City staff and elected officials have to say.

Please read below and share your conclusions. From this case study, it seems Elections BC is of virtually no use in helping voters verify the integrity of the 2014 election. Many issues will require further scrutiny and action in the coming days. Below is one specific case, still in progress. This is the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for more.

Useful reading: “It feels good to condemn China, Russia, and Iran, but what about the democratic deficit at home?” (Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight, 3-Jan-2015)

ELECTIONS BC: NO AUTHORITY OR ROLE IN ADMINISTRATION OF LOCAL ELECTIONS?

Before the polls closed, on November 15, 2014, CityHallWatch e-mailed a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer at Elections BC, listing eight items of concern about the integrity of the Vancouver election. A copy is provided below.

On November 18,  a communications manager at Elections BC responded as follows (our underline):

Elections BC is the independent, non-partisan Office of the Legislature responsible for administering electoral processes in accordance with the Election Act, Recall and Initiative Act, Referendum Act, and Local Elections Campaign Financing Act. Elections BC has no authority or role in the administration of local elections in British Columbia.

Each municipality appoints a Chief Election Officer to administer local elections under the Local Government Act, which is not administered or under the authority of Elections BC.

Point #8 of your email [Candidate promotion/advertising on election day] falls under Elections BC’s authority, and Elections BC has followed up on all reported instances of election advertising that may not have been in compliance with the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act.

Elections BC was responding to our November 15 letter. But then, on December 3, CityHallWatch challenged Elections BC’s conclusion regarding a separate but similar incident to Point #8 (promotion/advertising on election day), cited in the Vancouver Courier.

Vision election day email deemed legal (Vancouver Courier, 2-Dec-2014)
We received and acknowledgement of receipt on December 11 (“We are looking into the matter further.”), but having received no further word, sent a reminder on January 5, 2015 requesting a response. Time is of the essence. The election was on November 15, and civic affairs continue to move quickly, but Elections BC has been slow to respond.

****************

TEXT OF LETTER FROM CityHallWatch to Elections BC

From: CityHallWatch
Sent: November-15-14 1:27 PM
To: Elections BC, Generalmail EBC:EX
Subject: Elections BC: Concerns about integrity of Vancouver civic election 2014

Keith Archer, Ph.D., Chief Electoral Officer

We are writing to register concerns about the integrity of the 2014 civic election in Vancouver.

We know that in 2011 election there was a confirmed violation by the incumbent party of election sign regulations, and numerous technical problems with the voting machines. Not a word of these incidents was mentioned in the Chief Election Officer’s report to Vancouver City Council for that election. The public and media never heard a word about them either.

For the 2014 civic election in Vancouver, have observed many cases that give us concern about the integrity of this election, and are writing you today, for the record, for later followup. We can provide documentation on several of these items in due course. We hope that you will look into them.

  1. Election signs: Enforcement of bylaws has been arbitrary, inconsistent
  2. Electronic voter/voting data: The City chose not to conduct a privacy audit when selecting the contractor, and we are not convinced that adequate systems are in place to prevent exploitation of data for political purposes.
  3. Addresses for voting places on voter information cards wrong: In numerous instances, the addressed indicated on information sheets mailed out to voters are not the closest locations. This could result in voter disenfranchisement.
  4. Plan Your Vote (online, city website), data security: Voters are encouraged to click on their selections and print them out to bring to the voting place. The public has no assurance that this data will not be exploited. IP addresses could be stored, along with selections, on City servers.
  5. Thin wall between databases of incumbent party and City Hall: In more than one case, we know that the incumbent party has “harvested” data from petitions to contact citizens. The public has no assurance that personal data did not end up into the database of the incumbent party. Likewise, the public has no way of knowing about about the separation of data between some contractors, such as the firm Vision Critical (which provides “Talk Vancouver” public survey/consultation services online under contract with the City of Vancouver), and the incumbent party.
  6. Voting without being required to show identification – In some instances, people have been permitted to vote without showing identification.
  7. Candidate videos: Despite original plans to host candidate videos, the City abruptly cancelled the plans. If you analyze the situation, it is another of many examples that produce a bias in the election, favouring incumbents and the larger parties with the biggest budgets.
  8. Candidate promotion/advertising on election day: We have heard reports that suggest banned activities have been occurring today.

These are just some of the concerns that have come to our attention. We would like to correspond with you after the election to address these in further detail.

Sincerely, R. Helten
Coordinator, CityHallatch Media Foundation

2 thoughts on “2014 election followup: “Elections BC has no authority or role in the administration of local elections in British Columbia”

  1. Elections BC is not accountable to anyone but themselves. No freedom of information, no ombudsperson review, no ministerial oversight, and they have an extraordinary veto over the Attorney General and our inherent democratic right to launch private prosecutions. In a case I’m working on, the RCMP has advised that they cannot even open an investigation without Elections BC’s consent, even though they agree their is a serious documented case. Problem is, Elections BC may have been an accessory to the offences so they can use their unusual powers to shield themselves from scrutiny — and there is absolutely no recourse except to go to court. The electorate shouldn’t be forced to go to court to force Elections BC to do their jobs. A documented fact is that in the 15 odd years the Election Act was in place, Elections BC never once initiated a prosecution. They came from the RCMP. Now it seems they are shutting that door too.

  2. Under the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act and the Election Act, Chief Electoral Officer Archer has one fundamental duty: enforce the provisions of the Acts. When has he ever done that?

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