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Essex municipal election proxy vote use questioned

by Sylene Argent

Following the Essex Municipal Election on October 22, Essex Councillor Sherry Bondy brought forward concerns she had heard from residents about the use of proxy votes.

  To ensure proxy votes were used only as intended, she wanted the matter investigated.

  The Town of Essex received two complaints on the matter.

  OPP Constable Jim Root said at the moment he can only confirm that the OPP has been advised of this allegation and has an investigator assigned. 

  One of the proxies in question was filled out for a Ward 3 resident, Carl Wilson Jr. On a proxy, there are to be two names and signatures; the Elector Making the Appointment and the Elector Appointed. This document, however, has three names included, with the third signature added in the “Statement of Elector Making Appointment,” section where the Elector Making the Appointment should have signed. This was dated for July 4, 2018. It also features areas where a name was added, then scratched out to add a different one. The relationship box was not checked off.

  According to essex.ca, residents may vote by proxy if unable to vote at the advance polls or on Election Day. Proxies must be on a prescribed form and certified by the Office of the Clerk. In accordance with Section 44 of the Municipal Elections Act, an Elector may only be appointed to act as a proxy on behalf of one other qualified elector who is not a relative, but can act as a proxy on behalf of one or more qualified electors who are relatives.

  In a video Bondy posted to Facebook around a month ago, she alleges while on the campaign trail, an individual informed her of a conversation had with another candidate, “And that candidate convinced that senior man to hand over his proxy vote to him. I am really worried about that because proxy votes have a purpose; they are used for people who are out of town or people who can’t get out of the house or are bedridden.”

  In the video, she said the man she talked to was able-bodied. She urged voters to not hand over their proxy votes to someone they do not trust.

  “In theory, a candidate can get 50 people working for them and get 50 proxy votes,” she theorized in that video.

  The majority of proxies submitted in the Essex Municipal Election were from Wards 3 and 4. Over 80 were submitted from the south-end of the Municipality.

  A post she made on October 24 notes, “The proxy nightmare I was warning people about happened. Ask your seniors if it happened the them. Approx 24 older Portuguese seniors in our community voted by proxy out of 33 total for ward 4. Reports are coming into me that these seniors didn’t even know they voted. Some showed up to the polls to vote and were told someone already voted for them. I continue to fight for democracy.”

  In the video she posted with the above comment, she said, “Around noon, I was called by a family who brought their mother to vote at lunch and her mother had already voted by proxy, unknowingly to her,” she claimed.

  Online, there has been a call for elected councillors to make a statement on the issue.   

Councillor Elect Kim Verbeek stated, “Some residents are asking for statements from Council Elect about the current investigation into the use of proxy votes in our Municipal Election. I take this very seriously. Voting is a privilege and a right. If our electoral process has been manipulated or compromised in anyway, it must be dealt with.

  “Councillor Bondy and several residents have brought fourth concerns in regards to proxy voting. It is being investigated. I believe in the process. We all deserve answers and speculation will not provide answers. I will await the finding of the OPP investigation. I encourage any resident who has relevant information to contact the OPP.”

  Councillor Elect Chris Vander Dolen also took to Facebook to share his opinion, which included the following, “What neither tall tale includes is that the two voters probably simply forgot they had signed proxies. But our electoral process is so air tight that it prevented double voting in both cases.

  “One of the voters was 87, I’ve been told. Forgive the poor woman for forgetting she’d told someone else months before she would vote by proxy. This does not mean the election was a “nightmare,” or that ‘the process failed us,’ as Bondy claims,” Vander Doelen wrote.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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