Liberal candidate defends use of proxy votes for marginalized people

Whitehorse Centre candidate Tamara Goeppel says she's trying to give vulnerable people a voice by having them fill out proxy forms. Elections Yukon is gathering more information to see if it is a breach of election rules.

Candidate Tamara Goeppel says she's trying to give vulnerable people a voice

A downtown Whitehorse resident says he was asked by Liberal candidate Tamara Goeppel to cast a proxy ballot for someone he does not know. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Elections Yukon says it's looking into the case of a proxy vote solicited by a Whitehorse Liberal candidate to see if it might be a breach of election rules.

Downtown resident Bruce Dent says he was asked by Liberal candidate Tamara Goeppel (Whitehorse Centre) to cast a proxy ballot for someone he did not know. He says Goeppel told him the person felt too "intimidated" to vote.

According to Dent, Goeppel and her campaign manager came to his door last Sunday and asked him to cast the proxy ballot.

"She gives me a form, and she gives me quite a clear and involved spiel about voters being intimidated to go to the polls for this election, and this person in particular being intimidated to go to the polls," Dent said.

He said that was at odds with what was listed on the form he was given — that the person could not vote because he would not be in the territory.

Bruce Dent says he was asked to vote for someone whose address was listed as 311 Black St. in Whitehorse - the Salvation Army. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

Dent found Goeppel's request odd, and decided to look into it further.  

"I thought, well, I really want to find out more and really ensure the legitimacy and, quite frankly, the ethics of this. Because quite frankly, I don't want to be participating in something that is not ethical."

Dent took his questions and concerns to Elections Yukon. 

He says he was told a person who will be out of the territory can appoint a friend, relative, political party or candidate from that electoral district to vote on their behalf. 

Dave Wilkie, Yukon's assistant chief electoral officer, says Elections Yukon is now looking into the matter.

"[A proxy vote]'s not for people within Yukon to use, it's only for people that are going to be outside of Yukon on the advance poll days and election day," Wilkie said.

"Any time that we get information that sounds like it could be a breach of the Election Act, we have to try to get more information."

10 proxy forms obtained by candidate

Goeppel, meanwhile, does not see a problem, saying she's been working with vulnerable people downtown and trying to make their voice heard.

"They don't vote especially, not regularly, yet their plight is something that is very close to my heart," she said.

'In order to get this community to be actually active in this election, they need to have that the barriers are reduced, for them to vote,' said candidate Tamara Goeppel. (Tamara Goeppel)

She says she spoke to one man who was reluctant to cast his own ballot and she told him about proxy votes for people out of the territory.

"He said, 'Tamara, I am out of territory — I'm invisible, no one sees me. I don't know where I'm going to be, or in what state I'm going to be in."

Goeppel said she has helped about 10 vulnerable people fill out proxy forms. In all cases, she said, the people are in a position where they don't necessarily know where they will be on voting day.

"A valid reason for a proxy vote is not being in the territory," she said. 

"Through the conversations that I've had with these folks, they've said, 'you know, we might be in Dease Lake [B.C.] We don't know. We might be at the bottom of the river.'"

Goeppel said she spoke to people involved with her campaign — people with more election experience than her, she said — who told her she was acting within the rules. She did not check with Elections Yukon.

"We made the decision that for these folks, this is the only way that they can vote," she said.

"Who would deny someone in this particular circumstance the right to vote, if this was the only avenue for them to cast a ballot?"

With files from Cheryl Kawaja

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