Squamish decides threshold for municipal election recounts

Candidates can request recount if difference is 10 or less for mayorship, final council spot

Following a municipal election that featured a very tight race for the sixth and final councillor spot, District staff have decided that 10 will be the magic number that allows for a recount.

On June 4, councillors unanimously voted in favour of passing all three readings for an amendment to the Squamish Election and Assent Voting Bylaw, which spells out the procedures for local elections.

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Several housekeeping changes were made, including the number of votes needed to allow for a recount.

Back in October, Coun. Chris Pettingill edged out Sascha Fabry by two votes.

The razor-thin difference prompted a recount, which confirmed Pettingill’s victory.

Fast forward to the present, municipal staff have decided that if the difference is 10 votes or less for the mayorship or for the final councillor position, candidates may request a recount.

Previously, there was no solid number attached to it.

The old wording of the bylaw reads: “if a recount is requested by a candidate after the preliminary election results are announced, it shall be conducted under the direction of the chief election officer.”

During the June 4 meeting, Coun. Armand Hurford wondered what would happen if the difference was marginally higher, like 11.

Robin Arthurs, the District’s general manager of corporate services, said people who wanted to a recount in that case could make a challenge to the courts.
This is normally done any time a chief election officer turns down a recount request, and has been the procedure regardless of the bylaw amendment, she said.

Arthurs also said that machine counters used by the municipality are accurate enough that a recount shouldn’t be necessary unless the difference is extremely small.

“We’re very confident with the machines,” she said.

Arthurs said recounts for municipalities around the province are generally at the discretion of each chief election officer and often aren’t tied to firm numbers.

“[The recount threshold is] arbitrary and it’s different all over the province. It’s usually at the discretion of the chief election officer entirely, without putting in a number, but we decided that we would define it,” Arthurs said.

Included in the bylaw amendments are changes revolving around mail balloting, mainly allowing greater flexibility for when mail ballot applications can be received by staff, or when locals can receive their ballots.


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