Waterfront Toronto has launched an investigation into possible vote-rigging — not in an election, but in a contest to name the $25-million public park that will eventually bloom beneath the Gardiner Expressway.
The Under Gardiner's naming jury had already whittled down the 884 name suggestions to four — The Canopy, The Bentway, The Artery and the Gathering Place — and put the choice to the public in a vote that began April 28.
The name would christen the stretch between Strachan to Spadina avenues beneath the highway and is considered one of first steps in transforming those 1.75 kilometres into a series of outdoor spaces that will be bordered by the Gardiner's pillars.
The Bentway quickly established itself as the first horse in the naming race, holding on to about 36 per cent of the vote for most of the contest, Waterfront Toronto spokesman Christopher McKinnon said. The Artery held on to second place, staying about 10 percentage points behind throughout.
"It was really just in those last few hours, votes for The Artery started to surge," McKinnon said.
So much so that it's cast doubt on the legitimacy of the votes; people are only allowed to vote once per day, manually.
But the gap between the The Bentway and The Artery closed when the contest ended at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. McKinnon said just 40 votes separate the two, but it's unclear if all the 3,500 online ballots cast are legitimate.
When the project's web developer searched through the database after the sudden upswing for The Artery, McKinnon said they noticed "typos, inconsistencies" in people's email addresses — and signs that some of the other email addresses had simply been made up.
"Which led us to believe that somebody was using an automatic voting program to stack the vote," he said.
Toronto police also could not say whether they would lay any charges in a case like this.
McKinnon said Waterfront Toronto will go through each online ballot to make sure they're authentic before releasing the winner. He said he hopes to wrap up the investigation in a few days, but he couldn't make any promises.
Either way, the chosen name still has to go to council to be ratified — and they, of course, have the final say.
While it's unlikely that they'd make any changes, you never know. (Here's looking at you, Boaty McBoatface.)