New Brunswick

Saint John Harbour voter cast 2 ballots in tight election, new affidavit says

Court documents reveal Elections New Brunswick officials called police on Dec. 3 about suspected voter fraud in the hotly contested riding of Saint John Harbour.

Elections New Brunswick called police on Dec. 3, documents say

New court documents reveal Elections New Brunswick officials suspected on Dec. 3 that one elector in Saint John Harbour had cast both a special ballot and a regular ballot on election day. (CBC)

Recently filed court documents reveal Elections New Brunswick officials called police on Dec. 3 about suspected voter fraud in the hotly contested riding of Saint John Harbour.

Liberal MLA Gerry Lowe won the riding by 10 votes in the Sept. 24 provincial election, defeating PC candidate Barry Ogden.

The riding of Saint John Harbour has a long history of tight elections. Liberal MLA Gerry Lowe's 10-vote victory over PC candidate Barry Ogden has launched a five-month long legal battle. (Julia Wright / CBC)

It was the tightest race in the province and subsequently played a pivotal role in the fight for power between the PCs and Liberals.

Allegations of voting improprieties have triggered a five-month legal battle between Ogden's legal team and Elections NB.

Police called Dec. 3

The affidavit filed Jan. 24 with the Court of Queen's Bench by municipal returning officer Patti Nason describes how one elector voted by special ballot — and then allegedly cast a second ballot three days later on election day.

The alleged fraud went undetected by poll workers on Sept. 24 because the special ballot wasn't recorded until Sept. 21 at 3:13 p.m. — after the data for the list of electors had already been collected and input into the computers at the polling stations.

David Owens, the assistant chief electoral officer, reported the information to Saint John police over two months after the election, according to the document.

Police returned the call later the same day, and Owens spoke to "an Officer Weeber who advised a file number had been assigned, the matter had been referred to the fraud unit, and Mr. Owens would receive a telephone call from another officer."

As of Jan. 24, according to the affidavit, Elections NB hadn't received a followup call from the Saint John police.

'God is testing me'

Ogden said his reaction was one of "disbelief" when he was notified Feb. 4 that Elections NB had reported the alleged voter fraud to police.

"It's very stressful. … the only recourse the judge has is to declare the election null and void and have a byelection," he said.

"I would never give up ... I think we have an opportunity here to correct the system. It is extremely frustrating that Elections NB has let this go on for five months. 

"Sometimes I think God is testing me. I'm ready to write the exam."

The riding encompasses the neighbourhoods loosely arranged around Saint John Harbour. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Lowe said he was made aware of the affidavit through his lawyer.

"Elections NB has given it to the local police, and I think that's the right thing to do," Lowe said.

"I don't have anything to do with it and I'm sure that Barry had nothing to do with it … I personally know absolutely nothing about it. I didn't try to get anybody to vote twice."

Under Section 107 of the provincial Elections Act, anyone who "having voted once at an election, applies to vote again at the same election … is guilty of the corrupt practice of impersonation."

Police did not respond to a request for comment on the status of the investigation.

The court challenge on the vote in Saint John Harbour resumes Saturday in the Court of Queen's Bench. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julia Wright

Host, Information Morning Saint John

Julia Wright is the host of Information Morning Saint John on CBC Radio 1. She previously worked as a digital reporter focused on stories from southwestern New Brunswick. She has a master's degree in English from McGill University, and has been with the CBC since 2016. You can reach her at julia.wright@cbc.ca.

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