By Robert Frank
With files from Tracey Arial
At least three candidates in Sunday’s Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) election have filed official protests alleging breaches to voting rules. They join a growing chorus of complaints that inept planning and poor execution suppressed the number of voters who participated in the Nov. 2 vote.
Fewer than one in six eligible voters—11,431 out of more than 72,000 electors—succeeded in casting a ballot, Sunday.
Citizens, many of them elderly, waited in lines for up to two hours. Polling stations were clearly unprepared to handle the tiny fraction of the electorate who turned out to vote.
The polling station at Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School witnessed some of the most egregious problems. Voters there had to wait up to two hours to cast their ballot.
“There were at most six chairs for people in the lineup who approached [polling station chief] Marcia Dixon and asked her to do something or they would turn back,” candidate Ruth Dangoor-Gdalevitch told The Suburban. “She was very rude. She replied ‘Well, turn back. That’s your choice.’ People in were screaming in the gym that ‘This is a third-world election’. A lot of them did not vote because they were very angry and just took off.”
Dangoor said that she will file a complaint against Dixon, who also turned away several people whose names appeared on the voters list. She also intends to file a complaint against her successful opponent Craig Berger, a lawyer whom she said ought to have known that talking to voters on polling station property violates election rules.
“I also called [returning officer] Rémi Poliquin because [Berger] he put a volunteer on the [polling] desk who was an educator at Beechwood school,” Dangoor added. “[Poliquin] had to call him and tell [Berger] that he should remove her.”
Confusion also reigned in Verdun, where The Suburban witnessed election officials seat 50 citizens in chairs without indicating to them the order in which it would be their turn to vote at the lone polling booth there. Eventually, a numbering system typical of provincial and federal elections was set up. Officials gave voters tickets to indicate their number in the queue.
At Beaconsfield High School, an election official told The Suburban that voters queued for more than a half hour at some points.
Candidate for chair Angela Nolet told The Suburban that she intends to file a complaint about the conduct of the election.
“People who were eligible to vote were being turned back,” she said in an interview.
Winning candidate, incumbent chair Suanne Stein Day told CTV News that she attributed the problems to government austerity measures. Quebec prevented the LBPSB from using money it had set aside for the election. As previously reported in The Suburban, the province also didn’t kick in any additional money to run the polling.
Chris Eustace, who placed second in the race to be elected chair, told The Suburban that he has filed similar complaints as those filed by Dangoor and Nolet. He said that he has asked Poliquin for to provide a ward-by-ward breakdown of election results.
He also questioned how much influence Stein Day had over the electoral process.
“There’s something quite odd here,” he said in an interview.
Two weeks ago, Stein Day summoned reporters to a “non-partisan” news conference to complain that English speakers had been left off the voters roll. She called for citizens to be able simply to show up at a polling station and swear that they are eligible to cast a ballot.
“The Quebec English School Board Association (QESBA) subsequently dropped its request, saying that problems at LBPSB had been resolved,” Eustace reported.
“Who told QESBA to rescind its request?” he asked.
LBPSB returning officer Rémi Poliquin did not return any of The Suburban’s repeated phone messages.
He did send a terse reply to a text message asking for the final tally of electors eligible to vote.
“See the web site,” he wrote.
The Suburban did not succeed in reaching Craig Berger prior to press time.
[Note: A search of the entire LBPSB web site showed no instance of the word ‘electors.’ The number provided in this report is based on estimates by all three candidates for chair, who were given copies of the LBPSB voter roll.]