The City of Kawartha Lakes has provided a written response to members of the media — and at least one candidate — over what some thought were potential irregularities about the voting process on election night. But Candidate Gord James, who was present that evening, is not satisfied with the response — especially about the role played by scrutineers.
As the Advocate previously reported, shortly after 8 p.m., the media was asked to exit the room, leaving just the candidates, their scrutineers and City staff. Once the public voting locations were declared closed (for in-person voting the election is closed after the last person who got there on time has finished voting) City staff left the Victoria Room, received the results behind closed doors without any scrutineers present, and came back to the Victoria room to announce the results to the candidates, scrutineers and media.
The City was asked, “Why was there a period of several minutes that candidates and scrutineers were not in the room with the Clerk and CAO?”
Cheri Davidson, manager of communications, advertising, and marketing, writes the following:
“The process used to announce the results on election night was designed first and foremost to allow openness and transparency by revealing the results to everyone at once. The process was as follows:
8 pm – Voting closed for internet/telephone voting. Mandated 15 minute time lapse after polls close before results are requested from the system.
This is to allow all votes to be captured by the system, for example, for someone who logged in at 7:59 pm. The voting help centres (four municipal service centres and City Hall) provided the ‘all clear of voters’ at approximately 8:15 pm, requiring an additional time lapse to ensure those votes were captured. The process was explained to all in attendance including candidates and their scrutineers. The usual role of a scrutineer in a paper ballot election does not apply in an electronic election as there are no ballots to inspect, review or count. We can make available the Elections Results Report that was generated the night of the election to any scrutineer who would like to view it.
8:21 pm – City Clerk (Returning Officer) printed the Election Results Report in the presence of the deputy returning officer and election auditor. We did not show results to scrutineers at this point in the process to ensure that results would not be publicized by personal cell phones, social media, etc. This would be unfair to the media, candidates and the public.
8:35 — Results published on website. The Results Report was given to the deputy returning officer and the communications manager who entered the data into the City’s website election results page. The Results Report was not in an accessible format for the website and required that the data be entered manually into accessible tables. This also allowed us to display the summary of elected officials at the top of the page, making the new Council visible immediately to everyone in attendance. This included members of the media, candidates, scrutineers and the public.”
James says he finds the City’s response “alarming.”
“My opinion, the role and rules for scrutineers are very clear. Scrutineers appointed by candidates play an important role in maintaining the integrity of the electoral system regardless of the voting method. They are crucial to a transparent democratic process,” James says.
The former candidate says scrutineers are to “observe the conduct of the election, to provide assurance that the procedures and rules have been followed by officials and by voters.”
“Scrutineers are required to leave all communication devices outside the room and are required to remain in the room until all results have been publicized,” James says.
James says he’s not happy with the fact that three City employees “removed the data from the Dominion Voting equipment, moved the data to a closed room, transferred this data to a different format and tabulated the data without any scrutineer observation.”
“Again, in my opinion, this an obvious breach of the most basic democratic electoral procedures and brings the integrity of the process into question. I believe we all have a responsibility to our veterans, friends and relatives who fought and died to ensure this process is respected, enforced and preserved for all.”
Davidson says as far as knowing whether or not one’s vote registered, electors can contact the City Clerk’s office at any time to verify this information.
“They would need to have their name, address and birth date on hand. Through the entire election period, we were messaging this to voters, particularly during the slowdown and the extension of the election,” she says.
The Advocate heard that many people had an issue with telephone voting in the sense that they felt the prompts happened too fast for people to feel comfortable with. At one point, the City changed the message to deal with this, says Davidson.
“Electors were reporting some difficulties with instructions. Slight changes were give to Dominion Voting to provide further clarity to voting instructions. The intent was to emphasize that electors must use only the last 8 digits of their Voter ID to login. The pronunciation of certain candidates’ names were adjusted to be more accurate.”