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Yukon NDP leader calls on Tamara Goeppel to step aside, as RCMP investigates proxy votes

'It appears that an offence, or offences under the Elections Act, have occurred,' says Elections Yukon in a news release.

'It appears that an offence, or offences under the Elections Act, have occurred,' according to Elections Yukon

A downtown Whitehorse resident said he was asked by Liberal candidate Tamara Goeppel to cast a proxy ballot for someone he does not know. Elections Yukon has now referred the matter to the RCMP. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

NDP leader Liz Hanson is calling on Tamara Goeppel to bow out of the race or for the Liberal Party to drop her as a candidate, after Elections Yukon asked the RCMP to investigate the use of proxy votes in the Whitehorse Centre electoral district.

"Based on information received, it appears that an offence, or offences under the Elections Act, have occurred," writes Elections Yukon in a news release.

Elections Yukon looked into the matter after a downtown resident said Goeppel and her campaign manager came to his door asking him to cast a proxy ballot, explaining that some marginalized voters were too "intimidated" to go to the polls.

Proxy votes in Yukon are supposed to be for people who are out of territory on voting day.

Goeppel, in turn, said she'd helped about 10 vulnerable people fill out proxy forms, saying that in all cases, the people didn't necessarily know where they would be on voting day.

Last week, she quoted one unnamed person she talked to as saying: "Tamara, I am out of territory — I'm invisible, no one sees me. I don't know where I'm going to be, or in what state I'm going to be in."

"We made the decision that for these folks, this is the only way that they can vote," she said.

Liberal leader Sandy Silver, at a news conference Tuesday morning to talk about his party's platform on mental health and justice, dodged reporters' questions about Goeppel.

"We're not here to talk about anything else other than the mental health strategy and the justice strategy," he said.

"This is in front of an investigation right now, and so we are talking with the office — the elections office — and after that conversation is concluded, we'll have a statement on that."

A news release from the Liberals on Tuesday morning referred to the investigation, saying the party "takes all matters related to the electoral process seriously."

It says Goeppel was trying to ensure all Yukoners can exercise their right to vote.

"Tamara was well intentioned and genuine in her desire to help vulnerable people vote," the statement says. 

Step aside, says NDP leader

NDP leader Liz Hanson, running against Goeppel in Whitehorse Centre, said Tuesday morning that the Liberal candidate should bow out of the race.

"This is a serious matter," Hanson said. "Being dishonest about why a proxy ballot is being used, in order to get a vote from a vulnerable person, is wrong.

'This is a serious matter,' said NDP leader Liz Hanson, who's running against Goeppel in Whitehorse Centre. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"The only right thing to do is for this candidate to step aside."

Hanson said if Goeppel doesn't bow out, Silver should withdraw his party's support for her.

Hanson referred to a comment Goeppel made last week to CBC about soliciting proxy votes. Goeppel said some vulnerable people told her they didn't know where they'd be on voting day, and that they "might be at the bottom of the river."

"I've lived in Whitehorse Centre for some time," Hanson said. "I know many of the people this candidate is talking about.

"When they say things like that — that they may end up at the bottom of the river next week — my first impulse is not to grab a proxy ballot. It's wrong."

Liberal Party campaign chair Laura Cabott said the NDP shouldn't rush to judgement before an investigation is complete, and Goeppel is innocent until proven guilty.   

The Yukon Party candidate in Whitehorse Centre, Doug Graham, has not commented on Goeppel or the investigation into proxy votes, but a statement from the party on Sunday said the Liberal leader needs to explain Goeppel's "questionable tactics." 

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