An Electoral Area E candidate has raised concerns about the regional district’s handling of the recent election, suggesting a request for a vote recount was ignored.
Natalie Sorkilmo was one of four candidates running to represent Area E (Rural Sicamous, Malakwa, Swansea Point) in the Oct. 15 general local election. According to official election results, incumbent Rhona Martin won the race with 172 votes, beating Sorkilmo by four votes.
Sorkilmo alleges Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) election officials did not follow some sections of the Local Government Act (LGA) relating to the election.
She said she requested a vote recount via email the day after the election (Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022 at 8:25 a.m.). The request was not answered until Tuesday, Oct. 18, in an email from Jennifer Sham, the CSRD’s chief election officer.
A follow-up email asking why the advance votes and mail-in ballots were not counted in front of Sorkilmo’s election scrutineers was also not acknowledged until Oct. 18.
Sham said in an email that Sorkilmo’s election scrutineers were present at each of the three polling stations on Oct. 15 to oversee the counts and accept the final numbers.
Sham said she reviewed the ballot account reconciliation sheets for the polling stations, the advanced vote which took place Oct. 5, as well as the mail-in ballots, and determined the preliminary results were the same as the final results.
Sorkilmo said she was not advised a final review of the ballot sheets, or the final determination of votes, would be done at the CSRD office in Salmon Arm.
Sham informed Sorkilmo in an email on Wednesday, Oct. 19, that she would have to be at the office before 3:30 p.m. that day if she wanted to go over the ballot sheets with Sham before the official declaration of results, which had to be announced by 4 p.m.
Sorkilmo said she wasn’t able to make it in time and she didn’t know she needed to appoint a scrutineer to oversee the final process in her place.
Sham had emailed Sorkilmo previously on Oct. 19 to confirm the review she had done and that the preliminary numbers matched what was to be announced as the final results.
A judicial recount could have been requested by Sorkilmo, at her expense, but an application for that had to be made in between the time of the official declaration of results and nine days after the close of general voting. According to the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Elections BC, a judicial recount application may be made if votes were not correctly accepted or ballots were not correctly rejected as required by the rules of section 139 of the LGA. As well, an application can be made if a ballot account sheet does not accurately record the number of valid votes for a candidate, or if the final determination under LGA section 145 did not correctly calculate the total number of valid votes for a candidate. None of these situations happened in the election, and there was no official need for a recount, Sham said.
Sham confirmed no official applications for a recount were made within the required deadline, and no applications were made to challenge the validity of the election under Section 153 of the LGA. All election documents were reviewed after the election by CSRD staff and were available to the public and candidates for review up to 30 days after the election results were declared. The ballot counts remained unchanged.
Sorkilmo is discouraged by the process, and feels her request for a vote recount was “essentially ignored.”
“I was expecting there to be some sort of democratic process, and I feel like there wasn’t,” she said.
Sorkilmo also said recourse should be provided by the municipal affairs ministry, not left to individual candidates or community members, and there should be clearer language surrounding some aspects of an election.