New Brunswick

Returning officer gives evidence in Saint John voting irregularities case

A returning officer was questioned in court Saturday as a hearing into voting irregularities resumed at the Court of Queen's Bench in Saint John.

Patti Nason admits there were clerical errors, but doesn't think there was voter fraud

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Hugh McLellan is hearing evidence into alleged voting irregularities in the riding of Saint John Harbour. (CBC)

The Court of Queen's Bench in Saint John spent all day Saturday questioning a longtime municipal returning officer to get to the bottom of what the Tories allege were widespread voting irregularities in New Brunswick's provincial election last September.

Patti Nason was tasked to look into thousands of documents related to the election in the Saint John Harbour riding, where PC candidate Barry Ogden lost to Gerry Lowe, who is now the Liberal MLA.

Nason's affidavit was filed on Jan. 24 and the court went through it paragraph by paragraph.

"We're doing this methodically and slowly and publicly because all of this has to be utterly transparent to the public," said Justice Hugh McLellan.

Publication ban on voters' names

He also issued a publication ban on revealing any of the voters' names.

Several of the documents were addition and correction forms — forms filled out by people who want to vote, but who aren't on the voters list or those who had changed their address

The court heard that in some cases, crucial information was missing from the forms such as signatures of electors and election officers.

In other cases they were missing a date of birth and sometimes there was no record that identification was presented at the time.

Nason said there were several clerical errors, but she made it clear she did not allege any voter fraud.

There were also discrepancies between the number of electors counted and the number of addition forms.

Ogden's lawyers asked for the forms to be presented to the court. McLellan granted the request.

Elections NB is being represented by lawyer Fred McElman, with Kelly VanBuskirk representing the Tories and Thomas O'Neil representing the Liberals.

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

New court documents reveal Elections NB officials suspected on Dec. 3 that one elector in the hotly-contested riding had cast both a special ballot, and a regular ballot on election day. Barry Ogden, left, lost to Gerry Lowe by 10 votes. (CBC)

Allegations that some people may have voted twice

The Tories allege some people in the riding may have voted twice, that people from other ridings may have voted in Saint John Harbour and that there were clerical errors.

Elections NB filed an affidavit with the Saint John Police Force in December 2018 alleging voter fraud.

The affidavit claims one voter cast two ballots in the tight race. 

The affidavit claims one voter cast two ballots in the tight race.

Because of conflicting schedules, the hearing will continue Saturday Feb. 16.