Rocky View County (RVC) council voted 7-2 Feb. 13 to create a list of electors despite a recommendation from administration to delay implementation.
Administration had recommended council wait until after the province updates the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA). According to Angie Keibel with RVC’s legislative and legal services, a LAEA review is planned to be completed in 2019.
“If the changes allow the municipality to use information from the provincial electors’ list, the cost of administration would go way down for RVC,” she said. “As a result, we’re recommending that this wait until the review is completed and, depending on the changes, consider implementing a voters’ list at that time.”
According to administration’s report, a voters’ list would allow for quicker verification and ballot distribution during elections. However, the cost of preparing the list would be financially significant and Keibel said it could also lead to other fraud opportunities and potential privacy concerns.
“It appears we might be a little bit premature here with the government maybe doing something,” said RVC Reeve Greg Boehlke. “I also question how we want to hire 20 people, we want to spend in excess of a couple hundred thousand dollars to do this, and we still only get 30 per cent (voter turnout).”
No other municipality in Alberta currently utilizes a voters’ list. The vote came following a notice of motion introduced by Division 8 Coun. Samanntha Wright during the Jan. 23 regular meeting.
Wright said she didn’t believe the LAEA review would necessarily address voters’ lists, saying she would wait to see what came out of the review but that her absolute “drop-dead” date to establish a list would be October 2019.
“I do believe that a voters’ list is a big deterrent – it stops the vote early, vote often and it stops you from being able to vote five or six times,” she said, adding she lost by only 21 votes in the 2015 municipal byelection to former councillor Eric Lowther.
A push to establish a voters’ list in the county was raised prior to the 2017 election by former Division 2 councillor Jerry Arshinoff. Though no evidence of fraud was found by administration at that time, Keibel said staff had reviewed two allegations of fraud in the 2017 election.
“We sent that to the RCMP in Cochrane for their information,” she said. “I heard back from the detachment (Feb. 16) and they are not intending to lay a charge in the matter.”
Though Keibel said she could not go into specific detail as to the exact nature of the allegations, she said documentation submitted by election scrutineers are reviewed by staff following each election.
“It could be the case that somebody who’s from an Edmonton address, for example, makes some comment that could sound like they’re voting just because they’re in the area that day,” she said.
According to Keibel, there have been no charges of voter fraud in any RVC elections. However, a written decision issued in 1987 by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, Crilly v. Isley, saw election results overturned as a result of improper administration.
“We have really no problems. We have things that are opinions of problems, but nothing ever proved or, one in the 1980s or something that was administrative,” Boehlke said. “I wonder if we don’t have bigger fish to fry.”
Council voted 7-2 in favour of an amended motion that would see the voters’ list project begin in 2019 to be ready in time for the election in 2021. Boehlke and Coun. Mark Kamachi voted in opposition.
According to Keibel, she now intends to request council’s direction in the fall of 2019 as to whether they prefer an ad hoc or a permanent voters’ list. Plans could be changed depending on the results of the LAEA review.
“The direction being, either abandon the voters’ list – that’s always an option, not to do one,” she said. “Or, to choose between a permanent voters’ list or an ad hoc one.”