Opinion: Last-minute changes to election procedure disturbing

By Enrique Massot
The County News

Why is Rocky View planning to make changes to the number of voting stations just days before the Oct. 16 election is called?

Confirming what Coun. Jerry Arshinoff recently revealed, a report to council is recommending the option of having one or more stations per electoral division without designating specific areas, so that voters will be able to cast their ballot at any station within their division.

Click on the link to see the  Report Sept. 12 meeting

However, since early 2016 it was clear that one polling station per division would be operating on election day.

At that time, council rejected Arshinoff’s initiative to create a list of electors to reduce risks of multiple voting, and instead supported an Administration’s recommendation for “Enhanced Status Quo” measures to “improve public perception of county electoral process and deter potential fraudulent voting.”

Click on the link to see the Feb. 23, 2016 Report Voter List

Among those measures, Administration recommended conducting a “voting station review (that) may indicate it is beneficial to have only one voting station per division, consolidating resources.”

In spite of that, it appears somebody during the dog days of summer decided that multiple polling stations in each division were, for some reason, needed. Rocky View then asked – and obtained on Aug. 14 – authorization from Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson to pass a bylaw authorizing the change.

The timing is so tight, if council does not reach unanimous vote at the Sept. 12 meeting, third reading to the bylaw may will not be passed, forcing council to hold a special meeting to pass third reading on a subsequent day but before Sept. 19.

The County is required to go through those steps because the Alberta Local Authorities Election Act allows one voting station per electoral division.

What are the arguments in support of such a hurried move?

The text of the bylaw contains a vague reference to the County being “a geographically diverse area.” Administration, however, did not include any clear argument in support of its recommendation.

This is concerning. Who runs the ship? How decisions with no clear motives are made?

According to statistics from the last election that are detailed in the staff report, more polling stations do not improve voter turnout.

Holding an election with multiple polling stations will cost the County more – $17,000 according to the staff report – and it is clear that staff are scrambling to rent additional venues at the last minute.

So, why this last-minute scramble to reinstate a system that offers no advantages, costs more and creates potential for voting irregularities? Who prompted this change in the middle of summer?

The administrative report that council will just be giving the Returning Officer the “flexibility” to decide whether to establish more than one polling station for division. So why did the Returning Officer wait until the last minute to tell council that such a hurried move was necessary? This has never happen in Rocky View, at least since 1999. Staff members are responsible people who know the legislation and do things well in anticipation. Let’s not kid ourselves here.

It’s interesting to note that, at least since 2001, Rocky View held elections with up to five polling stations per division without the required ministerial permission and without ever passing a bylaw allowing for it. As such, the County would have run afoul of electoral law in the last five elections.

Is anybody watching?

  • Mrs. Harper

    Once again the County Administration demonstrates their clear understanding of the rules. I’m sure they knew full well but simply didn’t care until it became an issue. They agreed to fall on the knife because they can weather the controversy and don’t need to get elected.

    In my opinion no respectable Councillor would ever demonstrate such poor judgement to even ask the question to try to bend the County rules for such personal gain. Very poor judgement on Lowthers part in the first place. Thats arrogance at it’s best.

  • G. Wilson

    Just don’t know what I would do without you Fearn

  • MKH

    Here we go again let me clarify this for you Wilson. It is my understanding Mr. Lowther asked and was given formal permission to put up signs. That formal permission was incorrect and when they realized this they apologized to Mr. Lowther and the signs were immediately taken down. So your beef is with Rockyview admin not with Lowther hope this eases your mind and clarifies why there were no fines issued.

  • G. Wilson

    BTW hope Lowther got clobbered for his bylaw infraction and fined $100 for each premature election sign his 2020 buddies are paying for, Just because Fearn thinks Lowther walks on water, does not mean he is above the law.

  • Thanks Janet, no surprise there. This county is in pretty bad shape when there is only one councillor out of eight that constantly stands up for the residents of RVC and calls these seven majority on their self-serving b.s. They really have no conscience nor care that their motives are so apparent; they do it because they can. Sure hope Boehlke has a worthy opponent in upcoming election. I see Kendall might get a run for his money. Enough already!

  • Janet Ballantyne

    In answer to G. Wilson’s question — Jerry was the only one who stood up to the 11th hour machinations of the majority. Margaret Bahcheli was not at Council yesterday. I expect that, had she been there, the votes would have been 7-2 rather than 7-1. Not that it would have made any real difference.

  • Very predictable aren’t they. This entire process was all pre-planned including the special meeting on Thursday as they definitely knew Jerry would vote against it. We just don’t know what kind of slime they have up their sleeves for Thursday. We are fighting against a very unethical, dishonest, fearful, power tripping, greedy, self-serving, crappy
    species here and the sickening part is that we are paying their salaries and expenses from our taxes. Are we going to continue to be door mats or are we going to elect some decent human beings to council in October??
    Was Jerry the only one with the guts to stand up for what is right with the vote today?

  • Janet Ballantyne

    Just an update from today’s Council meeting. The bylaw need to allow them to revert to their old multi-polling station approach got 1st and 2nd reading — Jerry voting against. To deal with the lack of unanimous consent for 3rd reading, Boehlke has called a special council meeting for this Thursday, Sept. 14th at 9 am to do 3rd reading. Unfortunately, completely within their rights under the MGA.

  • Mrs. Harper

    I’m putting my trust in Jerry who I know will not allow it to be unanimous. However knowing the antics of this Council and Administration they will try to find a way to have an in camera session behind closed doors and manufacture some obscure rule to censure Jerry’s ability to vote. You think I’m kidding- just watch.

  • From the “Report” it appears there must be a unanimous vote for by-law to go to third reading. I would suggest it will be a majority vote for yes but certainly not unanimous.
    How are they going to get around that?

  • J Donahue

    NO such thing as enhanced status quo with this council. Those seeking reelection are desperate to win. If it’s left to honesty most of these clowns wouldn’t be there in the first place. No way they’ll let go of multiple voting stations. It’s way too risky.

  • J Donahue

    No doubt you do have lots of information Fearn, your obsession with SW rivals that of a stalker as does your credibility.

  • G. Wilson

    JF/MKH/ABC whatever – getting much sleep next to the gravel pit?
    The guy you think walks on water just voted for 3 more gravel pit operations on Hwy 567 in close proximity to many residents. It pleases me he, and you, are getting a taste of a gravel pit neighbour. How do you like it now?? If Lowther decided to walk off a cliff I really do believe you would follow. Very sad. Why are you trying to hide your identity?

  • Simple Simon

    I see the grammar has still not improved.

  • MKH

    As an alternative we should vote for a councillor who make false statement about one developer in order to win votes amoungst her activist followers. Good luck SW we have plenty of information to distribute which will show how much you actually care about all the residents of bearspaw.

  • Louise Ball

    On a somewhat related election issue, I’ve been driving around Bearspaw and have noticed that Lowther already has election signs up in at least a few spots. They are new signs, not leftovers from the by-election that overly enthusiastic supporters have put up.

    Doesn’t he know that the County’s bylaws prohibit election signs until 30 days before the election date? Or does he just not care? Hopefully, Bearspaw residents will question the sanity of voting for someone who can’t be bothered to follow simple rules himself. Also, hopefully the County will fine him the $100/sign violation that he should be paying for the bylaw infractions.

  • G. Wilson

    The legality of elections since 2001 are certainly questionable now and definitely the by-election in Div. 8 a couple of years ago. Our tax dollars are being used to pay lawyers to screw the residents and it wouldn’t surprise me if RV 2020 has contributed to twisting the system. If this majority or the likes of them (RV 2020 plants) get back in, be prepared for things to get worse. As it is, concerned residents are not allowed to speak at PUBLIC hearings, open house formats are useless, gravel pit operations with no regulations being approved with no concern for nearby residents, development companies’ self paid ASP’s receiving 100% approval by majority votes (the ones we have to get off council),
    half-baked developments throughout the county, lack of infrastructure, and on it goes ad infinitum. It is blatantly obvious what is going on here – they know their lack of credibility won’t get them elected so they mangle the system because they can. Get out and vote (once only please) and let’s get back to democracy.