SURREY voters at Saturday’s advance poll were shocked to find that the ballot papers did not mention the party of two Council candidates – both were members of mayoral candidate Barinder Rasode’s ONE SURREY – MAZ ARTANG and MICHAEL BOSE!
This obviously has put these One Surrey’s candidates at a DISADVANTAGE.
Surrey-ites, as they received the stunning news, wondered how City Hall has been functioning under mayoral candidate Linda Hepner’s Surrey First team all these years.
Hepner and her Surrey first even shamelessly broke the election guidelines by starting to erect their election signs ONE DAY EARLIER – and then lied that they had received written permission from the Chief Election Commissioner, who denied that she had done so to Radio CKNW!
The Chief Election Officer’s office issued the following press release later: “During the first two hours of today’s advance poll, it was discovered that the candidate membership organization name was inadvertently omitted from two of the candidates for Councillor. The Chief Election Officer suspended voting for 55 minutes until the revised ballots were printed and available at the advanced polling stations. As a result, these advanced polling stations will be open for an additional 55 minutes, until 8:55 pm, to make up for the temporary suspension of the voting. The ballots cast prior to the suspension of voting will be kept separate until the Chief Election Officer receives further direction from Elections BC.”
Taxpayers’ money has been wasted.
TEAMSURREY Candidates Brenda Locke, former Surrey MLA and BC Liberal cabinet minister, and Stephen Gammer are calling for significant and swift changes to how elections are conducted in the City of Surrey. The fairness of elections and the protection of voters’ rights are paramount, and the City of Surrey has failed voters miserably.
Referring to the City election staff’s failure to indicate the affiliation of the two candidates for City Council, they said: “This has denied candidates a level playing field, and has denied voters full and accurate ballot information.”
They added: “Despite the City’s assurances that new, corrected ballots would be used going forward, the electoral process and the rights of voters have been violated. Inaccurate ballots pose a host of problems for both City election staff and voters. Ballots cannot be uncast, voters cannot be recalled to vote again, and voters may have been confused about their choices when presented with inaccurate ballots.”
“This underscores what I have said repeatedly – that City election staff should not have the authority to conduct elections, due to their appearance of conflict,” says Brenda Locke. “The City of Surrey has no expertise in conducting elections. A city employee should not be in charge of elections when that employee reports to some of the people being elected. This is a no-win situation and now, a worst-case-scenario has emerged. Inaccurate ballots have been issued to voters at today’s advance polls.”
According to TeamSurrey candidate Stephen Gammer, people cannot be permitted to change their vote, even though it was the City’s fault that they may have voted for someone they did not intend to vote for.
“The problem is, we cannot allow anyone to vote twice. We cannot cancel an already-cast ballot. And we cannot remove an individual’s first ballot from the box, if they tell us they were mislead by the inaccurate ballot,” says Gammer. “Being given an inaccurate ballot is not fair or acceptable. Elections should be run by experienced people who are not City employees, to protect the rights of voters.”
Both Locke and Gammer say they are prepared to ask the hard questions if they are elected to Council. They say they will insist on fairness and accountability at City Hall and will fight to protect the fundamental right of voters to cast a proper ballot.
SURREY First campaign manager Stewart Braddick said he wants to make sure that everyone who voted Saturday morning would have their votes counted.
He added: “Surrey’s Chief Electoral Officer should have contacted all candidates before closing the polls as campaigns were encouraging voters to come out and participate in the first day of advance polls. We also want to make sure that the paperwork was completed properly by those candidates who claimed their affiliation was not included in the ballot. We are also concerned election officials were not available at their published contact numbers, something that should have been possible throughout the election campaign, particularly on advance voting day.”