Nova Scotia

CBRM, Inverness County election candidates concerned about quality of voter lists

Municipal election candidates in parts of Cape Breton say people who have died, moved or changed their name are still on the voting lists. They are worried the irregularities could affect the outcome in the event of a close race.

Candidates say people who've died, moved or changed their name are still on the list

The integrity of electronic voting in Inverness County has been questioned after candidates for this month's election received private voter information. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

Municipal election candidates in Inverness County and Cape Breton Regional Municipality are raising concerns over the quality of their voter lists.

They say people who have died, moved or changed their name are still on the list and they are worried the irregularities could affect the outcome in the event of a close race.

Gerard Gillis, a first-time candidate running in Inverness County's District 6, said he has identified 33 people who should not have a vote in just one part of his district.

That's about eight per cent of the total.

"I noticed a lot of duplications on the list, as well as quite a few people that I knew shouldn't be on the list, because they were no longer living in the province for a number of years," said Gillis.

"The other thing was I noticed that actually in a couple of cases people were living in one district and listed in another district, as well."

Gillis was in the news last week after ringing the alarm bell over the release of people's birth dates on the Inverness County voters list.

The privacy breach only came to light after he complained about the number of names he said should not be on the list.

Jeff McNeil, a rookie candidate running in CBRM's District 11, said a handful of people who should not be on his list have already voted and he's looking into more that he calls suspicious.

"The system, when it comes to that, is discouraging and disheartening," he said.

Both candidates say they took the suspect names to their returning officers, but they don't feel their concerns were heard.

"The response I got from CBRM was, and I'm paraphrasing, is that the onus is pretty much on the voter to be honest," McNeil said.

Inverness County chief administrative officer Keith MacDonald says the returning officer and six revision officers went over more than 12,000 names on the voters list this summer. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"In instances like this, there should have been more safeguards that prohibit this from happening."

In an email, Inverness County chief administrative officer Keith MacDonald said the returning officer and six revision officers went over more than 12,000 names on the voters list this summer.

He said the county also advertised the revision process as required and notified the public on the county website.

Returning officer Deborah Campbell Ryan said CBRM followed the same revision process and it is the same one that's been used in past elections.

CBRM returning officer Deborah Campbell Ryan said if anyone knows of a name that should not be on the voter list, they should call the returning office, which can make revisions until the polls close. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

She said the process was followed properly and the list is as good as it can be. Municipal staff even start monitoring obituaries in July to try to ensure the voter list is as accurate as possible.

Campbell Ryan said if anyone knows of a name that should not be on the voter list, they should call the returning office, which can make revisions until the polls close.

If someone has voted illegally, police can investigate, she said.

The Department of Municipal Affairs declined to comment, saying the elections are up to municipalities.

Voter list is 'always somewhat unpure'

Dean Smith, CEO of Intelivote, the Dartmouth, N.S., firm running e-voting in most municipalities, said the voters list will always miss some people who die or move away.

"It's not unusual," he said. "As a matter of fact, it's probably relatively common for that to happen.

"The electors list is always somewhat unpure. How do you purify it? It's been a problem for a lot of years."

Smith said in the Halifax Regional Municipality, 12 per cent of the population changes addresses sometime during the year.

He said municipalities that choose not to do an official count of residents often use the provincial voters list, which has to be updated through a revision process.

"One of the reasons that lists go out to candidates is for that very reason," Smith said.

"They know who should and should not be on that list, because they may be in small communities or areas that may have a large geography but fewer people."

The Municipal Elections Act does allow for a judicial review afterwards if someone can show that the number of irregularities on the voters list could have affected the outcome.

Dean Smith, CEO of Intelivote, the Dartmouth, N.S., firm running e-voting in most municipalities, says it's common for the voter list to miss some people who die or move away. (Dean Smith/Intelivote)

However, with electronic voting, a judicial recount is no longer necessary, said Smith.

"There's no need to, because you can't mark it any other way than clicking in a box," he said.

With electronic voting, whether by phone or internet, the voter makes a choice and then is prompted to confirm their choice. They can't choose more than one candidate or deface the ballot by writing or drawing on it.

"The definition of a recount with us is the button you clicked five minutes ago to get the results, click it again," Smith said. "We can assure you the number will be the same."

About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 16 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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