Toronto Voters List Irregularities Case Gets New Evidence

CBC  |  Posted: 04/30/2012 9:24 pm Updated: 05/ 2/2012 8:25 am


Elections Canada has introduced new evidence in the court application of former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who wants the results of last May's election in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre overturned.


Elections Canada lawyer David Di Paolo submitted emails in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto on Monday from the returning officer for the riding, Allan Sperling, which were addressed to an Elections Canada lawyer.


Some of Sperling's emails were about Poll 31, located in Westmouth Park Church in Etobicoke. Three other polls, as well as Poll 31, were also situated in the church, at tables all fairly close to one another.


Elections Canada's rules on where you vote are clear — in your own poll, which is tied to your residence. But there were 68 people who voted at Poll 31, even though they were already on the voters' list for other polling divisions.


One email introduced Monday was Sperling's summary of a conversation he had with the deputy returning officer (DRO) and the poll clerk for Poll 31, in which Sperling relates that the DRO and the poll clerk said no one voted at Poll 31 who did not reside there. But in another email dated Jan. 5, Sperling summarizies a conversation he had with the registration officer for Poll 31 that seems to contradict the previous email.


The Elections Canada manual for registration officers describes the job as registering new voters to the poll and making sure that the voter is not already registered.


But in the email, Sperling relates that the registration officer said she allowed people to vote at any polling table in the church. She also said that late in the day, senior citizens arrived who were on the voters' list in other polls in the riding, but said they were too exhausted to go to their own polls, so she allowed them to vote at Poll 31.


Wrzesnewskyj's lawyers claim that of those 22 "seniors" who voted, 20 were not seniors but had ages ranging from 18 to the mid-40s.


The race in Etobicoke Centre was close. Wrzesnewskyj lost to Conservative Ted Opitz by only 26 votes.


When suspected voting irregularities came to light, Wrzesnewskyj brought a legal challenge, asking for the result to be overturned. His lawyer has raised examples of some 181 voters who perhaps should not have been allowed to vote at particular polls.


Opitz, now the sitting MP, is dismissing the challenge, arguing the alleged "irregularities" were clerical errors and mistakes by poll staff, rather than an indication of wrongdoing by voters that had any bearing on the final result.


Elections Canada says it is a neutral observer in the hearing.


List confusion


There was also discussion Monday about how it might have happened that several people appear to have voted twice in Poll 426, which was located in a seniors residence called the Village of Humber Heights — a complex of retirement apartments, as well as assisted care and long term care.


At Humber Heights, 173 people are recorded as voting because they were already on the voters' list. Another 33 people registered to vote, presumably because they had recently moved in. However several people were on both lists, with the spelling or the order of their names slightly changed.


One voter whose initials are TP, presumably for first and last name, had a B instead of a P on the second list. Another voter's first and last name were simply juxtaposed on the second list.


It's hard to know whether these were just errors that kept compounding, or whether some people voted twice. If Ontario Superior Court Justice Thomas Lederer finds that 26 people were not qualified to vote, then the election in Etobicoke Centre last year is null and void.


The judge may overturn the result and order a new vote for the riding. If this decision is appealed, the Supreme Court could decide the case.


On Friday, Elections Canada admitted to errors on the voters' list which could have allowed some voters to cast more than one ballot.


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