Court rules Stewiacke election results stand despite voting irregularities

Nova Scotia Supreme Court has turned down a request to overturn last fall's municipal election results in the Town of Stewiacke.

Eleven residents of Stewiacke, which has a population of less than 1,500, asked the court to overturn the results because the wife of one of the town's councillors cast votes on behalf of six people.

Judy Stoddart, wife of Coun. Russell Stoddart, voted on behalf of six residents without proper paperwork.

According to the court documents, Phyllis MacDonald asked her daughter, Janice Peterson, to vote by phone using MacDonald's PIN because MacDonald wasn't feeling well enough to go out and vote.

The judge described Stoddart and Peterson's votes as being cast illegally.

'Administrative errors'

"We are dealing here with a challenge based on administrative errors. There is no allegation of any fraud, corruption or illegal practices," Justice Michael J. Wood wrote in his decision dated March 9.

He said if administrative errors can annul election results, then "public confidence in the finality and legitimacy of election results will be eroded."

The residents who filed the application to overturn the voting irregularities said it should be assumed that all seven of the inappropriate votes were for Mayor Wendy Robinson, who received 318 votes. The other candidate, Pam Osborne, received 304.

7 votes deducted

They wanted seven votes removed from the Robinson's results. Further, they wanted those votes to go to the other mayoralty candidate, a move that would have resulted in a tie.

The judge agreed to remove the mayor's seven votes, but said it didn't make any sense to give those votes to her challenger.

"To assume that the electors would have voted differently had they known about the unavailability of friend voting makes no sense in these circumstances," said Wood.