Wrong ballots issued for school trustees at Edmonton advance voting stations

There are growing concerns that the democratic process during ongoing advance voting for some public school trustees has been tainted.

On Thursday, Jeffrey Mariuniak told CTV News Edmonton when he and his wife went to cast their votes at their advance voting station on Monday they were handed a ballot for the wrong school trustee ward.

"We get our ballot, and we go to the line to vote, and I just happen to open it up to double-check, and we don't recognize any name on the school trustee (section)," said Mariuniak. "We're like, 'This isn't right, we obviously got the wrong ones.'"

Mariuniak said, after a five minute debate with election officials, the incorrect ballots he and his wife were initially given were voided by Elections Alberta and they were able to vote for their ward's school trustee candidates.

"My wife and I are like, 'Well this doesn't make sense. We know this, but some other people probably don't know what they're voting for.'"

The Mariuniaks weren't the only ones to have this experience.

According to the City of Edmonton's returning officer and city clerk Aileen Griesbrecht, Edmonton Elections has heard from 40 different voters who also received the wrong public schools trustee ballot at their advance voting stations.

"As soon as we understood the concerns, we began to make every effort to ensure the process was resolved going forward," said Griesbrecht.

Griesbrecht said Edmonton Elections believe the issue occurred because workers at advance voting stations were not refreshing the Where to Vote tool between voters.  

Because there are multiple styles of ballots based on a voters municipal address, the wrong school trustee candidates appeared for some voters while the correct city councillor and mayoral candidate names were unaffected, Griesbrecht told CTV News Edmonton.  

"We have taken all of the steps to address the situation," she said. "We are in the process of reaching out to every voter who has contacted us with this concern."

Edmonton's returning officer said the Where to Vote tool has been updated and is now more user-friendly.

"(We're) reminding workers to ensure that the voting information has completely loaded before giving the ballot to the voter," said Griesbrecht.

Edmonton Elections has also added an additional step to the voting process where a second election worker will check that the right ballot has been issued to the voter, the returning officer said.

'IT FELT LIKE THE SYSTEM'S BROKEN'

Ward F Edmonton Public School Board trustee candidate Julie Kusiek told CTV News Edmonton she's concerned about the issue.

Kusiek said two supporters called her after going to vote, saying they also got the wrong ballot.

“Well I counted in my head two less votes," she said. "Hopefully this gets resolved quickly and we don’t have this issue anymore.” 

The Ward F candidate said after months of campaigning she hopes there are no more problems moving forward.

As for Mariuniak, he says his faith in the electoral process has been shaken.

"It felt like the system's broken and nobody cared or ran to fix it or justify what's going on," he said. "They just wanted us to adjust our vote and get out of there."

Griesbrecht said the instances of incorrect ballots being issued were rare and will not affect the election's outcome.  

According to Edmonton Elections, as of Thursday, 19,000 people had turned up to vote at advance polls. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Carlyle Fiset