PICTOU – It was an act still open to interpretation after a ballot box incident during the last municipal election brought the related parties to Supreme Court on December 22.
The day of the municipal election at the Linacy Fire Hall, the ballot box left the polling station, accompanied by polling attendants, to go down the road to allow two people to vote and return to the station. In that time, although more people arrived to vote, they all waited for the box to return and there was no one who did not vote because of it.
The facts of the incident match for each of the parties and were accepted by the court. The three parties – the Municipality of the County of Pictou, District 9 candidate Peter Boyles, who eventually was declared the winner, and incumbent Jamie Davidson who lost the election by one vote.
The Municipality of Pictou County chose to remain neutral.
The legal representation for James Davidson began by acknowledging that the Municipal Elections Act was in fact broken during the incident.
“This is more than a technical non-compliance,” said Frank DeMont. He noted that in a case such as this, the vote or election could be void.
DeMont also argued that technically, there was more than one breach due to the actions of that day. He mentioned that not only was the ballot box removed but the voters did not vote in a voting compartment, rather from their home.
DeMont suggested there seemed no choice in the situation other than to void the election.
The final statement was made by Peter Boyles who was self-represented during the hearing.
Boyles began by defending the polling officers who took the ballot box from the premises, noting that a supervisor gave them permission.
“It’s a common practice that if someone can’t make it into the polling station that the box is taken to the parking lot,” said Boyles. He believes the breach was in part because the polling station was located at the Linacy Fire Hall and for some residents ,that was too far from their homes.
“There was no malice, everybody agrees on that,” he said.
Boyles choked up a bit as he recounted all of the “undue stress” he and his family have been put through, as well as the returning officers, because of this.
He noted that in federal elections there are, in fact, specific people to ensure that those such as this couple are able to vote.
DeMont rebutted, “They were qualified to vote but they were not entitled to vote in their own home. It begs the question, where do you draw the line?”
Supreme Court Justice Nick Scaravelli decided to reserve his decision and will publish it in writing, although he gave no date indicating when.