New Brunswick

Court hears that it was possible to vote twice in Saint John Harbour

At a hearing Saturday, the court learned there was a brief period when an elector could have voted twice.

Hearing into voting irregularities reveals issues with voting system

Barry Ogden said the mistakes he heard in court shocked him. (Lauren Bird/CBC News)

An ongoing hearing into voting irregularities in the Saint John Harbour riding during the 2018 provincial election has revealed a flaw with Election New Brunswick's voting system.

Longtime returning officer Patti Nason told the court Saturday that there was a brief period during the election in September when an elector could cast a vote as a special ballot and then cast a vote as an ordinary ballot before the computers could register the first vote.

In the case of voter fraud that was sent to the police, Nason said that, according to the documents, it appeared the elector voted at a returning office on Sept. 21 in a special ballot, and then again at a polling station on Sept. 24 in an ordinary ballot.

Elector might have voted twice

Kelly Vanbuskirk, Ogden's lawyer, asked Nason if she had no doubt that the specific elector had voted twice.

"No," she said. But she said the documents appear to show that the elector voted twice.

Nason was tasked with combing through thousands of election documents from the riding. She was questioned for the past two Saturdays on the findings in her affidavit.

Her findings showed several voter information irregularities, such as missing addresses and signatures on addition and correction cards, and electors struck off more than once.

Nason said many of those irregularities seemed like clerical errors.

The Tories have alleged there was voter fraud during the election. Liberal Gerry Lowe won the riding over PC candidate Barry Ogden by 10 votes.

'Shocking,' says Ogden

Odgen said the findings shown in court Saturday were "shocking."

"We knew there were problems right from the get go. But this is far worse — far, far worse than what we ever thought."  

Gerry Lowe won the Saint John Harbour riding by 10 votes in September. (Lauren Bird/CBC News)

After hearing Nason's testimony, Lowe said that there are several problems with New Brunswick's voting system.

"But I don't think it just exists in this riding, I think it exists in the other 48, too," he said. "All the mistakes that she has admitted, that she has gone over, would exist in other ridings, too. They wouldn't just all be in this riding."

Elections New Brunswick lawyer Fred McElman said mistakes can often be explained by the fact many people working the elections only get two hours of training every four years.

In October, the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick started the legal battle to have election results for Saint John Harbour thrown out, claiming widespread irregularities in the election.

The case will continue with another hearing March 4.