No fraud found in Gaspé where ballot box 61 recorded only votes for the Liberals

Elections Québec has concluded there was no attempt at fraud when it comes ballot box 61 — a box from the Gaspé riding which was recorded as having nothing but votes for the Liberal Party on Oct. 1.

Chief Electoral Officer Pierre Reid found no attempt at fraud, although recount gave riding to PQ candidate

Questions were raised after ballot box 61 in the Gaspé riding was recorded as containing only votes for the Liberal Party last Oct. 1. Now authorities say the inaccuracy stemmed from human error, not fraud. (Radio-Canada)

Elections Québec says there was no attempt at fraud when it comes ballot box 61 — a box from the Gaspé riding which was recorded as containing nothing but votes for the Liberal Party on Oct. 1.

A recount was called in Gaspé following last October's provincial election, after the unusual ballot-box outcome was noted in a race in which the Liberal candidate had squeaked by.

Parti Québécois candidate Méganne Perry-Mélançon was ultimately declared the winner, bumping the toppled Liberals down to 29 seats and gaining her beleaguered party one more seat in the National Assembly.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Chief Elections Officer Pierre Reid says there was no infraction of the Elections Act in Gaspé, or anywhere else in the province, for that matter.

"There is usually at least one recount at each election, but this is the first time since 1976 that such a count has reversed the election of a candidate," said Reid.

The initial results raised doubts about the integrity of the counting process, he said, but the investigation found no attempt to deceive. 

A dozen investigators met more than 150 people in the Gaspé riding, including the returning officer, assistants, members of the electoral staff and all candidates.

They concluded that staff did count the votes for each candidate but failed to properly record the results. They determined this was not a error made in bad faith.

As a result of the recount, 49 of the 132 votes in the electoral district were corrected. These corrections did not have an impact on the outcome of the election, except in the case of ballot box 61.

Méganne Perry-Mélançon was all smiles on Oct. 10 when she was declared the actual winner of the Gaspé riding. (William Bastille-Denis/Radio-Canada)

The investigation found that the errors stemmed mainly from a misunderstanding of the rules, and a lack of uniformity in staff training is likely to blame, according to the statement.

In each constituency, some 400 election workers must be hired and trained in a short time, and that training remains a challenge, Elections Québec said.

In a tweet Tuesday, Perry-Mélançon said she is pleased that the investigation revealed a need to improve training in the days leading up an election.