Election Act violation complaints made in MODG

By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
October 28 2020

GUYSBOROUGH – Holding a municipal election during a pandemic was an uncertain prospect; candidates could not campaign as usual and voters were asked to vote online or by telephone instead of gathering at a polling station.

Saturday, Oct. 17 was election day in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG); five of the eight seats on council were contested. All but one incumbent, Sheila Pelly in District 2, held their seat.

Less than a week after the election, sources told The Journal that violations of the Election Act had occurred that day.

On Wednesday, Oct. 21, the returning officer for the MODG, Ashley Cunningham told The Journal in an email interview that a complaint was received on voting day, “regarding signage being either on municipal property or too close to the polling station. I am permitted to intervene as returning officer and ordered that the signage be removed. The candidates were contacted immediately, and the signage was taken down.”

Another complaint was received that same day, stating that a candidate was sitting in a vehicle next to the polling station. Cunningham said candidates were allowed at the polling station on voting day under the following circumstances: to vote, to meet with either their official agent or polling agent, and to take a family member to vote.

None of the complaints would lead to further action by the MODG.

Susan Cashin, who was a candidate in District 6, had concerns about the voters’ list distributed to candidates. On election day, she became aware of a number of voters who were enumerated that day; names that weren’t on the original list given to candidates.

“A voters’ list should be updated for every election. It certainly has an impact on a campaign if there are residents not on the list because they are not contacted by the candidates. I think it may have had a negative impact on my campaign.”

Regarding this concern, Cunningham told The Journal that due to COVID-19 no door-to-door enumeration was held in the MODG and “the last provincial voters’ list was used as a base.”

To capture as many voters as possible on the list, the MODG placed ads and sent out voter information letters describing the enumeration process that would be available by phone to those eligible to vote.

Fifty-six voters were added to the list throughout the election process wrote Cunningham.

In District 6, 12 voters were added to the original list of 476 voters.