With all due respect to Surrey’s chief elections officer, the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and the opinion of an independent legal counsel – a spoiled ballot is a spoiled ballot.
It’s hard not to agree with One Surrey campaigners that Saturday’s error in an advanced poll, rather than simply being a hiccup in the electoral process, is a significant compromise of the system.
In a process that is supposed to be all about openness, accountability and transparency, it is simply not acceptable that two of One Surrey’s candidates appeared on the ballot without their party affiliation being listed.
It’s not fair to supporters of One Surrey or to those who oppose them to not have such crucial identifying information on the ballot.
Mistakes happen and misprints occur, granted. But an estimated 700 ballots were cast – and a further 100 went out in the mail – before the error was caught, and voting was temporarily suspended for almost an hour.
No matter which way you slice it, that’s a significant chunk of the voting public – particularly when hotly contested seats can be decided by only a handful of votes.
According to chief elections officer and city clerk Jane Sullivan, the ministry determined that steps she took were enough to ensure the integrity of the voting process, while the votes already cast through the flawed ballot have been “segregated and secured.”
The votes will be part of the final count, we are told, even though it’s evident some have a chance of being based on an incomplete understanding of party affiliations.
When it comes to the supposedly sacrosanct process of casting a vote, the people of Surrey deserve better. There should be no room for halfway-OK ballots or after-the-fact make-goods.
It’s akin to being ‘halfway pregnant’ – there are no grey areas, only black-and-white fact. Even the potential for taint in a test is enough to invalidate an entire medical study; why should the important process of electing civic representatives be held to a lesser standard?
The only right thing for officials to do, after being alerted to the error, was to suspend the polling, declare all the flawed ballots invalid and return the process to square one.
That it would have been an inconvenience to voters, there is no doubt. That it could have been an embarrassment to the City of Surrey is likely.
But inconvenience and embarrassment should have had no effect on the decision. When it comes to an all-important vote, and the will of the electorate, let the chips – and the results – fall where they may.