Separated by only two votes, both candidates vying for Port Moody’s sixth seat on council wanted all 10 polls included in the final judicial recount.
The judge granted a recount of two polls, which ended in a tie between incumbent Amy Lubik and Dave Stuart. Ultimately, Lubik’s name was picked in a hat draw, and she was declared the winner.
The room was silent afterwards, said Neal Nicholson, Lubik’s campaign finance manager.
“I can tell you that if we had got a recount of 10 polls instead of two, we might not have won,” Nicholson said. “One thing that I can be certain of is there would have been differences in the other polls.”
In such a narrow race, small discrepancies become significant, and some are questioning whether sole reliance on voting machines is appropriate for tight recounts.
Lubik was trailing after the first count on election night, and an informal recount by the city, but differences between the two tallies led to her request for provincial oversight on Oct. 24.
Between all of Port Moody’s candidates (including school trustees), a total of 25 errors were picked up during that city’s second count on Oct. 17.
“The chief election officer couldn’t explain why that would’ve happened,” Stuart said.
The recount had actually started the previous day, but had to be abandoned and restarted because none of the candidates were told when and where it was taking place, contrary to the city’s election bylaws, according to Lubik’s affidavit to court.
Nicholson served as Lubik’s scrutineer, and said the city’s methodology for the recount was to simply re-run the ballots through the machine, rather than checking by hand.
“I don’t know how you can believe in the machine after you’ve seen 25 errors pop up,” he said. “Human eyes never counted the ballots.”
After the city’s recount, both candidates had lost one vote each.
Stuart was declared the winner by Phillip Lo, Port Moody’s chief election officer on Oct. 19.
Lubik’s camp wanted the city to request a judicial recount, but Lo did not feel it was necessary as the vote difference had not changed, according to Nicholson.
In federal elections, judicial recounts are automatic if the margin is less than one one-thousandth of the total votes cast, and both federal and provincial counts are done by hand.
Nicholson said there needs to be a review of municipal procedures around recounts, as the voting machines are not an infallible tool when margins between candidates are so low.
“The judicial recount was the only recount where actual human eyes looked at the ballots,” he said.
Stuart showed up to city hall to support Lubik’s affidavit to the province. He said he would have preferred a full recount, but Port Moody staff seemed somewhat resistant to the idea.
“Port Moody in court argued that their machines were pretty infallible and therefore, since they’d already done a recount as part of the certification which confirmed the preliminary results, there was no need for a recount,” Stuart said.
However, the judge ordered a recount of two voting stations where both candidates each lost a vote.
On this count, scrutineers observed ballots faceup as they were processed through the machines to catch errors.
The final tally had Stuart’s count go up two votes, and Lubik up four – a tie at 3,597 votes.
“Neither of us were happy that you end up getting elected by getting a name picked out of a hat,” Stuart said.
Nicholson said he believes the judge would have supported a full recount if the city had supported it.
While Stuart said he may explore options to recount all the ballots, he added that he understood why the judge opted for a partial recount.
Given the looming Friday midnight deadline, it would have been a “daunting task” to start on a complete manual recount on Wednesday afternoon, Stuart said.
Going forward, he wished Lubik the best, adding he plans to stay involved in municipal politics as the newly-elected council navigates the challenges of ushering in moderate growth while considering major developments.
Nicholson said it was significant that Stuart came to city hall to support the Lubik’s affidavit.
“In the end, it cost him his seat, but he supported the process,” Nicholson said. “You don’t know that you’re going to win. All you know is that you’re going to be sure it was right.”
The Dispatch reached out to Philip Lo and the city for comment, but did not receive a response by deadline.
– with files from Jeremy Shepherd
Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch