Manitoba

Disputed PC leadership ballots kept under 'lock and key,' party officials say

Ballots in the disputed leadership contest between Heather Stefanson and Shelly Glover were kept under "lock and key" and officials from both campaigns oversaw the validation and counting of ballots, according to new documents filed with the Court of Queen's Bench.

3 sworn affidavits lay out details of security, verification and counting of ballots

Shelly Glover and Heather Stefanson are shown here after the party declared Stefanson the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba on Oct. 30, 2021. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Ballots in the disputed leadership contest between Heather Stefanson and Shelly Glover were kept under "lock and key" and officials from both campaigns oversaw the validation and counting of ballots, according to new documents filed with the Court of Queen's Bench.

The Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party filed three sworn affidavits disputing Glover's claims that officials did not properly secure ballots in the election, which she lost to Stefanson.

Glover has not conceded defeat and has filed an application with the court to have the results tossed out and a new election called.

She claims the total number of votes cast fluctuated on election day, Oct. 30, and the party did not properly secure the ballots.

Three sworn affidavits from officials involved in the election lay out in detail how the ballots were collected, secured, verified and counted. 

The party hired Paladin Security to take possession of the ballot packages as they arrived at the PC party headquarters at 23 Kennedy St. and deliver them to the office of the accounting firm Scarrow and Donald LLP. 

The ballots were placed under "lock and key" until the verification process, which lasted from Oct. 19-29, according to the affidavit of George Orle, chair of PC party leadership election committee, who is also named in the lawsuit. 

Scrutineers from both campaigns were present during the verification process, and only ballots that were verified by agreement of both campaigns were then placed in the ballot boxes, according to the affidavit by party president and returning officer for the leadership election, Tom Wiebe.

While at the office of Scarrow and Donald, the ballots were kept in a locked interior room, which only assigned Scarrow and Donald employees had access to, according to Keith Findlay, a partner at the firm.

Findlay wrote in his affidavit that on the morning of Oct. 30, he put the sealed ballot boxes into his vehicle and delivered them to the Victoria Inn, where the party was holding the election.

Wiebe oversaw the distribution of the boxes to the counting tables, where again scrutineers from both campaigns oversaw the counting of the ballots. 

The official tally on election day counted 82 spoiled ballots, 17 disputed ballots, 8,405 votes for Stefanson and 8,042 votes for Glover, for a total of 16,546 ballots.

Preliminary vote totals 'inaccurate'

The dispute over the vote count stems from a spreadsheet given to Glover on election day before the final results were announced, which said there were a total of 16,045 votes cast. 

In his affidavit, Wiebe said the spreadsheet counting the preliminary ballot totals was known to be unreliable as early as late September, due to errors caused by transferring the data from the PC party's internal documentation format to an Excel spreadsheet. 

Both campaigns knew the spreadsheet was not accurate, Wiebe said.

"I know this because when I was present … during the process of verifying ballots, I listened to both campaign teams complain that the spreadsheet was not accurate," he said in the affidavit.

Regardless, both campaigns continued to request the spreadsheets be updated and circulated at the end of every day.

"It was apparent to me that they were of the view that as incomplete and inaccurate as it was, the spreadsheet had at least some value in assisting them in identifying who had voted and who had not," Weibe said in the affidavit.

A court date has been set for Dec. 10 to hear arguments in the case.

With files from Bartley Kives

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