Allegations fly around Behchoko election

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Allegations of drunken voters hardly able to stand, interpreters swaying votes and mismanagement of polling stations has initiated a civil lawsuit, filed by runner-up candidate for Behchoko chief Leon Lafferty.

The former Behchoko chief and MLA is asking the NWT Supreme Court to overturn the June 12 election for chief and council due to the irregularities. Lafferty was one of five candidates running in election in the community but lost to incumbent Clifford Daniels by a margin on 36 votes, 416 to 380.

Since that time witnesses have come forward alleging there was corruption and mismanagement at the polling stations during the election.

Allegations include ballots not being shown to scrutineers, incorrect counting of ballots and ballots being placed upside down during counting. Statements from witnesses also claim that voters names were not recorded correctly and were added after the ballot count, that final tallies were incomplete and spoiled ballots were put in with good ballots.

One vote counter complained in the affidavit filed in court that a “name reader was saying the names too fast and names were being noted incorrectly and some were being skipped, and the two people marking them were not able to keep up.”

She also claimed a poll clerk at one polling station left it unattended while helping out at other polling stations.

Witness statements also claim that interpreters assisting the elderly and mentally disabled were swaying votes by pointing to specific candidate names on the voter card and saying them loudly while saying the other candidates names in a quiet tone, or assisting with the marking of the voter cards.

There were also allegations that the returning officer and a polling station attendant left the room with count sheets and some time later returned and put the sheets into an envelope and sealed them. Ballot boxes were alleged to have been left unattended for long periods of time and ballot boxes are alleged to have been opened in order to correct tallies after the election. It was also said in a statement that one of the polls did not close at 8 p.m. as required because there was no polling attendant there. A claim was also made that one of the people doing counts was texting during the count.

One witness from one of the polling stations said in their statement that obviously intoxicated people were being brought in who could not stand on their own and when they questioned whether these people should be allowed to vote their concerns were dismissed.

A petition was also filed by Lafferty alongside the lawsuit. The petition contained 480 names from the community requesting there be a re-election.

There has been no response to the suit from the community government of Behchoko. The next court appearance of both parties will take place in the NWT Supreme Court on Sept. 22.