Ward 1 Recount Needs to be Done Manually

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


Written by Bre Walt

At the Inaugural Ceremony held Monday December 4th at Guelph’s River Run Centre, Kathleen Farrelly was sworn in as Ward 1 City Councilor, along with Bob Bell. On November 13th, Farrelly beat out Ward 1 Incumbent Laura Baily by just one vote, garnishing 1717 votes in her favour. Following Farrelly’s close win, Bailey requested a recount. The recount was performed this past week however, it was not done by hand. Since the elections were conducted using electronic tabulating machines, those same contraptions were used for the recount.

After the votes were recounted electronically, Bailey and Farrelly both came out with 1717 votes in their favour. Following the tie, Lois Giles, Guelph City Clerk, picked Bailey’s name out of a garbage can, making her the winner. Farrelly however, will be going to the Ontario Superior Court to request a manual recount of the votes. Giles notes that Farrelly will, for the time being, serve on council, according to the Municipal Elections Act. "She will stay in office until such time as any appeals or recounts have been finalized," Giles said. "It if takes until January, she will stay in office." Out of respect, Bailey did not attend the Inaugural Ceremony held this past Monday.

Throughout this process many in the community have appeared vehemently opposed to Farrelly’s request for a manual recount. However it seems that irritation over the next recount is immaterial. During the first recount Giles says there were about ten ballots considered "ambiguous" by the voting machines. These ballots count as a non-votes, however, one of them was filled out using an ink pen that someone had likely brought from home, rather than the markers provided at polling stations. Giles made a ruling to manually include this ballot in the count, which tied the two candidates. It appears that even the City Clerk has realized the ambiguity caused by electronic voting machines. Had no recount been requested, whoever's vote was filled out using pen, would not have been counted. How do we know that there were no ambiguous votes that were not included in other wards? We don't. Farrelly is completely reasonable for wanting to see the ballots counted manually.

Furthermore, when a recount was requested and performed in ward 6, though the winner did not change to Kenneth Morgan, the tally fluctuated by fifteen votes. This shows a clear inaccuracy on the part of electronic voting machines, an inaccuracy that could only be noticed when a manual count is performed.

Newly elected Mayor Karen Farbridge was consulted by Farrelly after the initial recount, and told her that candidates indeed have the right to request recounts, especially when the race is decided by only one vote. "The recount has shown in Ward 1 and Ward 6 that technology is not foolproof," Farbridge said. "People in Ward 1 need to have a level of confidence what the right numbers are."

Farbridge also notes that she would have offered the same advice to Bailey, if she had consulted her. "Anybody should call a recount on one vote. Whoever moves forward in this position needs to have the confidence they were the choice of the residents in Ward 1."

With the community speaking critically on the possible errors that could be made by an electronic voting machine, it only seems fair for candidates to receive a manual recount when it is requested. Many have referred to Farrelley’s actions as ungracious, but rather than being a question of style, this is one of accuracy within the democratic system.

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