Nova Scotia

Candidates dispute the outcome of Halifax elections

Three candidates on the losing end of Saturday's municipal elections in Halifax say they have concerns with the process and question the results.

Some runners up plan to call for official recounts

Some runners-up in Halifax electoral districts plan to ask for judicial recounts, after losing by a handful of votes. (CBC)

The candidates on the losing end of the three tightest races in Halifax Regional Municipality are raising questions about Saturday's election process, with one saying he will ask for a recount in the presence of a judge.

In the closest race of the night, Andrew Curran lost to District 10 incumbent Russell Walker by 15 votes.

While a nearly two-hour delay in results meant Curran and other candidates were left wondering what would happen, that wasn't what troubled him. Rather, it was learning some residents of a building on Dutch Village Road were actually directed to vote at polls in District 9.

Voters directed to wrong polls

"I'm wondering how many votes I've lost from that building," he said. "That is the major, major concern I have right now."

Curran said he called the voter help line when alerted of the problem on Saturday and it took a while for the people there to understand what was happening.

Meanwhile, the website that told people where to vote, gave three different poll locations for residents in the building at 3471 Dutch Village Rd.; two in District 9 and one in the correct district, District 10.

Municipal spokesman Brendan Elliott said they were made aware of the problem Saturday morning and could only find two instances where people from the building voted in the wrong district. Poll officials were alerted to the problem and told to redirect people if necessary, he said.

Elliott said voter cards that were mailed out all contained accurate polling information. 

Curran said he would ask for a judicial recount, if necessary.

Scrutineers couldn't get access

In District 9, where newcomer Shawn Cleary knocked off veteran councillor Linda Mosher by 107 votes, the Mosher campaign also has concerns.

Mike Kydd, Mosher's campaign manager, is frustrated by the lack of explanations for the delays and the trouble some scrutineers had doing their jobs. In one case a scrutineer showed up before the polls closed, only to be told the ballot box was already removed, he said.

Kydd said people weren't allowed to view the count at another polling station.

"When our six volunteers showed up, they were told that they had to go stand in the corner and could not take part."

Waiting to determine next steps

He said Mosher would wait for the official addition on Tuesday and talk with municipal staff before determining whether or not to take further steps.

Cleary said his volunteers reported no issues at the polling sites.

"As far as we could tell it was running smoothly, although not very overwhelmingly in terms of turnout. But the counting itself seemed to go fine."

The night's other tight race was in District 14, where Lisa Blackburn, a former CBC reporter, bested incumbent Brad Johns by 47 votes.

Everyone wants a fair playing field

Johns also expressed concerns about the result and plans to ask for an official recount, noting he heard nothing negative at the doors during the campaign and he had the most lawn signs. He disagreed with the suggestion voters were just being polite.

Johns said some of his scrutineers reported missing ballots. He also worries the online voting system is open to error and manipulation, but could point to no evidence that something went wrong.

"I think that everybody wants to be sure that it's a fair playing field. And I think, in this particular election, I question whether or not it was a fair playing field and whether or not the playing field was open to being tampered with."

For Blackburn's part, other than the delay in getting final results, she said things seemed to go smoothly.

"It was definitely a long and arduous evening."

Delays prove the system worked

Elliott said the delay was the result of the quality control system.

As polls were counted, the numbers were entered into a system and sent electronically, along with a photo of the written results page, to the main office. If there were cases where the two didn't match up, or a picture wasn't attached or was too blurry, which happened in 60 of about 2,000 cases, the main office had to wait for the materials to be delivered from the polling stations to be reviewed.

Elliott said any candidate who wishes can be present for the official count on Tuesday and can voice concerns at that time.

"From our perspective, we don't believe that there is any reason to take into question the outcome of the polls or the ability of people to vote. But we are certainly open to listening to what they have to say when they come in on Tuesday."