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Indus scrutineers did not break rules, according to Rocky View County

Though it irked many voters, the actions of two scrutineers at the Indus polling station during the Oct. 18 election did not break any election laws, according to Rocky View County officials.
Some voters in Division 6 were upset after their Form 13 slips were photographed by candidate Sunny Samra's scrutineers on Oct. 18, though County officials say the activity was compliant with local election legislation.

Though it irked voters, the actions of two scrutineers at the Indus polling station during the Oct. 18 municipal election did not break any election laws, according to Rocky View County (RVC) officials.

Some residents of Division 6 took to social media Oct. 18 to voice their complaints after two scrutineers at the Indus Recreation Centre took cell phone photos of voters’ Form 13s – the election sheets that include their name, address, postal code, and whether they are voting for public or separate school board trustees.

One such southeast Rocky View County resident was Carl Wenstrom, who posted photos of the two scrutineers to a Langdon-area community Facebook page, along with a description of his voting-day experience. Some people commented their forms were also photographed by the scrutineers when they went to vote in Indus, and some replied they’d be filing complaints to Elections Alberta about the matter.

“I find it disturbing they can take pictures like that, with my name and address,” Wenstrom said, when reached by phone later that evening. “It’s not allowed, according to the information you can read online with Alberta Elections.

“There’s no reason for them to have that information on their phones.”

Elections Alberta's website states a scrutineer is a representative of a political candidate. Their job is to oversee a polling station to ensure the voting procedure is being followed correctly and according to official rules and policies.

Wenstrom said he asked the scrutineers who they were there on behalf of, and they replied Division 6 candidate Sunny Samra.

“These scrutineers, from what I can read, were not abiding by the same rules they were supposed to be watching,” Wenstrom said.

“The whole situation seemed very wrong.”

However, Amy Zaluski, the director of legislative services for RVC, said the issue was a misunderstanding. While taking photos of ballots or voters themselves is not allowed, she claims there is nothing in the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) that disallows scrutineers from taking photos of Form 13s.

The LAEA, she added, is the document that governs the rules of municipal elections in Alberta.

In an interview Oct. 19, Zaluski said she was aware of the complaints about the Indus polling station scrutineers, but she said upon reviewing the situation, the scrutineers did not appear to be breaking any rules.

“When we reviewed the [LAEA] when the request to take a picture of the Form 13 was made, we did confirm with Municipal Affairs as well that there's nothing in the Act that prevents them from doing it,” she said.

Zaluski added the scrutineers were not allowed to take photos of voters, their signatures, or their identifications – only the Form 13 sheet.

“As scrutineers, they're allowed to write down names and addresses for the purpose of doing their job,” she said. “What was done was the signatures were covered up and they were allowed to take a photo of the exact same information they could write down.”

Samra, a real estate agent who lives in the Cambridge Estates area, ultimately won the election in Division 6 on Oct. 18, coasting to victory over three other candidates – incumbent Jerry Gautreau, Rolly Ashdown, and Jeremy Stinson. Samra finished with 969 votes, Ashdown with 452, Gautreau with 450, and Stinson with 109.

After the vote, Samra said his scrutineers were simply abiding by instructions they had received from the County. He said a Sept. 29 email to all candidates from RVC’s deputy returning officer indicated scrutineers were allowed to take photos of Form 13s in lieu of writing voters’ address and postal code down by hand.

“This is not something I requested or wanted,” Samra said. “It’s something that went out to all candidates. Based on that, we were just following what election officials told us to do.”

According to Samra, the photos were to be deleted from the scrutineers’ phones after the results of the election were made official on Oct. 22. He said he did not even see the photos.

Samra added the likely reason for the misunderstanding was RVC’s lack of an official voters’ list.

“I totally understand people’s concerns,” he said. “It’s a valid concern, but I believe that it is for the election returning officer to answer all these questions. It’s not for me to answer.”

The winning candidate also wanted to clarify that only one of the two scrutineers in Indus whose photo was taken was his.

“I did not have two scrutineers at the same time,” he said. “I did have two scrutineers – one in the morning and one in the evening – but if there are two scrutineers and they’re both [brown skinned], that does not automatically imply that they are mine.”

Scott Strasser

About the Author: Scott Strasser

Scott Strasser, editor
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