Election Battle Finally Over
An Ottawa Valley election battle is over.
A Pembroke judge said on Thursday he could not order another recount in North Algona Wilberforce, after a November recount bumped Kevin Clarke out of a township council seat in favour of Melvin Berndt.
Clarke told the judge he brought the issue to court because he was unsatisfied with the difference between the original results on election night, which showed him defeating Berndt by 15 votes, and the November recount, which showed him losing to Berndt by 14 votes.
But the judge said it wasn't within his jurisdiction to order another recount, noting that the process played out properly according to Ontario's municipal election laws.
Outside court, Clarke said he’s disappointed he’ll never know how the discrepancy came about.
"I'm disappointed, but it is what it is", Clarke told Star 96.7.
"Life goes on. It’s sad to see that the legislation doesn’t leave room to get correction”.
One of the questions surrounding the dispute was the issue of rejected ballots, which ended up not mattering in this court hearing.
NAW Clerk Marilyn Casselman told the judge that 84 ballots were rejected on election night, for having inadequate markings on them, or "check marks", instead of "x's" as instructed on the ballot.
She also told the judge that some ballots were marked with a red-coloured pen, and some with crayon.
But ultimately, only 7 of those ballots were rejected in the November recount supervised by Bonnechere Valley Clerk Bryan Martin, with Martin telling the judge on Thursday that the recount team was able to determine the voter intent on most of those rejected ballots.
"The votes were cast in a way that they could be understood", Martin said.
The parties in the courtroom told the judge that they accepted the terms under which the November recount was performed, and that seemed to be what tipped the judge toward his decision.
He told the courtroom he could only rule on disputed ballots, not order another recount.
"You're asking me to do something I'm not empowered to do as a judge", he told the court, noting that there's been an election, there's been a recount, and that it was done properly.
"I can't undo all that ... I can't second guess that", said the judge.
Clarke told the judge that he was hoping for an exception, but the judge said Clarke's only recourse at this time may be to fight for changes to the laws which govern municipal election recounts.
Berndt To Take Council Seat
Melvin Berndt will be sworn in as a Township Council member later today and says he’s satisfied with the outcome.
"I feel really good about it; I felt all along that’s what was going to happen", Berndt told Star 96.7 outside the courtroom.
"There was a mistake made on election night, and I don’t know what happened. It could’ve been a simple adding mistake. The people who worked on election night were there for a very long day”, he added.
Township officials say they respect the judge’s ruling, and are ready to moving forward.
In a statement, North Algona Wilberforce Chief Administrative Officer and Operations Manager Andrew Sprunt said it's been a long process, but added that all involved have been respectful and patient.
"I respect both men very much and will say that, with me, they have both acted very much the genltemen they are through this difficult process".
"I thank Kevin for his meaningful contributions to Council during his brief time in office", Sprunt added.
"I would hope that he continues to contribute to the Township as he has done for many years".
"I welcome Melvin back to Council and look forward to working with him in this term of council."
Sprunt also said another recount is very unlikely.
"There is no mechanism available to determine why the results of the counts were different ... both the election team and the recount team were made up of very competent persons."
"The best course of action is to move on".
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