POLITICS

Election Result In Toronto Riding Thrown Out By Judge

05/18/2012 01:28 EDT | Updated 07/18/2012 05:12 EDT
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Conservative MP Ted Opitz's 2011 federal election win last year in Etobicoke Centre was declared null and void today in a challenge by former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

Opitz won the May 2011 election by 26 votes, but Wrzesnewskyj challenged the results over voting irregularities.

Justice Thomas Lederer's decision Friday in Toronto, if appealed, would be immediately heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Wrzesnewskyj's lawyer argued up to 181 ballots were in dispute.

The voting irregularities included some people who weren't on the list but cast ballots after being vouched for by others at the polling station, some people without the proper paperwork completed, and others in which voters cast ballots when they were registered at other polling stations or didn't live in the riding.

Lawyers examined ballots

Under a court order, Wrzesnewskyj's lawyers were able to examine the ballots at 10 polling divisions, as well as poll books and electors' lists at Elections Canada's office in Ottawa.

The test to declare the election invalid, and trigger a byelection (after any appeals are exhausted), was a finding that more than 26 ballots, the losing margin, should not have been counted.

Particularly outstanding is what went on in Polling Division 31, located in a church in Etobicoke. Eighty-six people voted by registration certificate on May 2, meaning they showed up without a voter identification card. Wrzesnewsky's lawyers claim that 68 of those voters actually lived in another polling division and should never have been allowed to vote at polling station 31.

Two of those voters gave addresses outside the riding and their ballots should be discarded, the lawyers claim. And 32 voters were already on the electors' list in that polling division or others nearby, suggesting it's possible they voted twice.

In another polling division in the riding, five voters who voted by registration certificate are listed as being crossed off the electors' list in another polling division, indicating they most likely did vote twice.

In one polling division, both the deputy returning officer and the polling clerk vouched for more than one voter who showed up without ID, something that, as Elections Canada employees, they should have known was illegal.

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