A candidate in the recent Osoyoos and area’s school trustee by-election has asked the Okanagan Similkameen School Board to void the election result, citing irregularities that contravene the provincial Local Government Act.
Penny Dupperon made an impassioned plea at tonight’s regular school board meeting in Oliver for Chief Electoral Officer Lynda Minnabarriet to “declare the election invalid” and to restart the by-election process.
The by-election was won by Casey Brouwer; Ms. Dupperon finished second among the three candidates, 40 votes behind the victor.
“It was an honest mistake, but it was a mistake, nonetheless,” Ms. Dupperon told trustees and SD53 administration. “Would this have impacted the results? No one can say. There’s absolutely no way to determine this.
“What can be said though, is that the election wasn’t conducted in accordance with the Local Government Act, the School Act, or even the School District Number 53’s own trustee by-election bylaw No. 20.”
The error Ms. Dupperon was referring to was the absence of a second advance polling opportunity — a requirement under Section 107 of the Local Government Act.
Ms. Minnabarriet had minutes earlier in the meeting confirmed the oversight to the SD53 board.
“The Local Government Act requires that there are two advance polls during an election process, unless the population of the trustee area is under 5,000,” she told trustees.
“In the November trustee by-election, we only held one advance poll. There was an oversight.”
The Act requires that “at least two advance voting opportunities must be held for an election by voting” — one on the 10th day before general voting day, and the second on another date set by the local government authority administering the election.
After Ms. Minnabarriet detailed the process for the election to be overturned — an application made to the B.C. Supreme Court by “a candidate in the election, the chief election officer or at least four electors of the municipality or electoral area for which the election was held” — Ms. Dupperon suggested the onus to make the application was on the school district.
“An error was made and made by the school district and no one else,” she said. “The onus for fixing this should be on the school district and no one else.”
She also called upon trustees to support that application.
“I just heard Mr. Brouwer take an oath swearing that he would uphold the school act; I have to assume all of you took the same oath and now you’re condoning violating it. The rules are put in place for a reason and must be followed.”
In the November 5 by-election, the winning candidate, Mr. Brouwer, received 251 votes — including 83 cast at an October 26 advance polling opportunity. Ms. Dupperon received 211 votes, including 27 cast during advanced polling.
A third candidate, John Redenbach, received 87 votes, including 27 cast during advanced polling.
An application allows the Supreme Court several options:
- declare that the election is confirmed as valid;
- declare that the election is invalid and that another election must be held to fill all positions for that office that were to be filled in the election that was declared invalid;
- declare that the election of a candidate is invalid and that the office is vacant; or
- declare that the election of a candidate is invalid and that another candidate is elected in place of that candidate.
However, the Local Government Act also requires the Court “not declare an election invalid by reason only of an irregularity or failure to comply with this Act or a regulation or bylaw under this Act if the court is satisfied that:
- the election was conducted in good faith and in accordance with the principles of this Act; and
- the irregularity or failure did not materially affect the result of the election.
Ms. Dupperon, however, says there’s more at stake for the district than just ensuring a proper vote was conducted. She pointed to a loss of confidence in the school board in the Osoyoos community.
“Failure to rectify this error will continue to erode it,” she warned. “This by-election must be in my opinion beyond reproach . . . If we let this go, what else do we let go. It’s a slippery slope.”
Ms. Dupperon said she plans to give the school district time to correct its mistake before determining what her next step will be.
“I’d love to see the district step up and fix this. It’s their mistake and they should be stepping up and saying, “We goofed.”
She was uncertain about her next step, but said she wouldn’t be surprised if electors in the Osoyoos community came forward and made an application to the court.
“There are a lot of people who are pretty upset with the result,” she said.