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.”
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.
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.
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.