Firefighters ready to assist candidates as scrutineers

By Enrique Massot
The County News

A group of Rocky View County firefighters were ready to work as scrutineers, after spending last Sunday learning the ins and outs of the role.

Jeff Salkeld, president of the Rocky View County Firefighters’ Association, said the 35 firefighters who attended will be offering their services as scrutineers to any candidate in the Oct. 16 municipal election.

“We want to help all candidates and residents of Rocky View County with a fair, transparent and democratic election,” he said.

The initiative is a first in Rocky View County.

Gerard Lucyshyn, an Economics lecturer at Mount Royal University, presented the topic and said candidates often don’t give the role of scrutineers during an election the importance they deserve.

“It’s a resource extremely underutilized,” he said.

Scrutineers observe the proceedings on behalf of the candidate they represent, and have the ability of objecting to irregularities.

However, he added, “you are not there to argue or to fight—instead, you observe, record and report.”

Rocky View firefighters and residents at a Balzac Hall Scrutineer School April 30. Photo: Enrique Massot


Lucyshyn said firefighters are well positioned to work as scrutineers.

“Firefighters are well respected and know more than most of us, including locations,” he said. “Elections are a tense situation, and you folks are trained to remain calm on much higher tension situations.”

Janet Ballantyne of the resident advocacy group Rocky View Forward, former councillors Kim Magnuson and Gordon Branson as well as other residents also attended the free, open session.

Scrutineers need to be present at polling stations shortly before they open, so that they can verify that ballot boxes are empty before they are sealed.

“Once a ballot box is sealed, it never gets unsealed,” said Lucyshyn.

Lecturer Gerard Lucyshyn presented information for scrutineers on April 30. Photo: Enrique Massot


During the vote, scrutineers must ‘scrutinize’ voters. In Rocky View there is no voters’ list, therefore it’s important to check addresses to ensure voters do reside within the division where they vote.

If they suspect any irregularity, scrutineers are entitled to object the vote, and their objection must be recorded by the Deputy Returning Officer, who is the top authority at the polling station.

“Objecting is not a slight on a voter,” said Lucyshyn. “The deputy must file the objection.”

Objections are recorded in Form 12, also known as Note of Objection to a Ballot, and the objection is assigned a number that is noted on the back of the ballot being objected, with the ballot being initialed by the deputy.

If the deputy refuses to file an objection, the scrutineer should notify the candidate, who may file a complaint with the Returning Officer.

The deputy’s decisions prevail unless they are overturned later by the Returning Officer or a judge.

If an election is contested and the courts intervene, those who voted knowing they were not qualified—for example, residing out of the division—may be fined up to $10,000 or be imprisoned by six months, or both.

Jeff Salkeld, president of the Rocky View County Firefighters Association speaks at the April 30 Scrutineer School. Photo: Enrique Massot


Examples of electoral manipulation, Lucyshyn said, include vote buying, carousel voting (busing voters from polling station to polling station) multiple voting (the same elector voting at advance poll and again on election day) voter impersonation, misuse of proxy votes, and destruction or invalidation of ballots.

In a case in another jurisdiction, Lucyshyn said, a worker was counting ballots with a pen in hand.

“It does not take much – just the stroke of a pen to render a ballot invalid,” he said.

However, Lucyshyn noted, fraud is not widespread.

He showed that in Rocky View, a case of improper procedures happened back in 1986. At that time, a judge declared a Div. 4 result invalid because polling clerks were improperly trained, electors were not told to read the declaration of eligibility, and untraceable addresses had been recorded.

Salkeld said a refresher course may be held after the Sept. 18 candidates’ Nomination Day.

More information for candidates can be found at the Rocky View official website.

  • In reply to Mrs. Harper:

    “…no candidate is required to use one of the volunteer Firefighters.”

    Absolutely. Candidates are free to designate whoever they want as scrutineers–they are also free to not designate any–to their own risk.

    Very importantly, the firefighters’ workshop was an eyeopener about the need for preparation. Candidates should make sure their scrutineers are aware of what the role entails, which is quite a bit.

  • Mrs. Harper

    Crystal – I am fully agree this is very positive having the Firefighters onboard and in no way would I suggest they would be part of anything untold. My point is no candidate is required to use one of the volunteer Firefighters. It’s a great start. My hope is they would be able to report any irregularities no matter who the candidate.

  • Candidates are not forced to designate scrutineers–however, candidates are advised to have a scrutineer at each polling station on Election Day.
    Each one of them will be checking as ballots are cast and the vote-counting operation on behalf of their candidate.
    Scrutineers are observers, therefore can’t intervene nor can they prevent irregularities. They can only object if they perceive one–and ask their objection to be recorded. The number of objections is a consideration if the election results are contested.

  • Crystal Kissel

    We are talking about Firefighters…there would be no personal advantage to a firefighter to tarnish his reputation to
    To support a corrupt Candidate…maybe we need to look at what a positive move forward this is with our voting system.

  • Mrs. Harper

    What checks & balances are in place should a corrupt candidate supply corrupt scrutineer’s?

  • Ideally, all candidates will designate scrutineers covering each polling station, so checks and balances increase and all candidates will either be happy with the results or their objections will be recorded if any.

  • I commend our firefighters and agree the scrutineer roles are very valuable.
    We will see if there are any candidates that decline scrutineers (dumb move) where there may be a possibility that any irregularities would be to the candidate’s advantage.
    Sound familiar?

  • Candidates should designate enough scrutineers to be present at the advance poll and at each polling station on Election Day. Scrutineers bring with them their designation signed by the candidate and are sworn-in by the Deputy Returning Officer.

    Designating scrutineers is up to candidates. Candidates are not obligated to designate scrutineers, in which case they would be unable to file objections to any irregularities and unable to contest the results of the election.

    As shown at the Scrutineer School, there are quite a few things an efficient Scrutineer must know, and that is where the firefighters’offer to provide trained volunteers for the role is so valuable.

  • “Scrutineers observe the proceedings on behalf of the candidate they represent….”.
    Does the candidate request a scrutineer during election day, can the candidate decline the presence of a scrutineer, will there be a scrutineer on site at all voting locations?