In this small Alberta town, the mayor was elected by a margin of one lonely vote

·3 min read
Parrish Tung is starting his fifth term as mayor of Elk Point, Alta., after beating his only challenger by a single vote in the Oct. 18 municipal election. (Supplied by Parrish Tung - image credit)
Parrish Tung is starting his fifth term as mayor of Elk Point, Alta., after beating his only challenger by a single vote in the Oct. 18 municipal election. (Supplied by Parrish Tung - image credit)

If you ever needed proof that every vote counts, look no further than the town of Elk Point in east-central Alberta.

After a recount of votes cast for the community's next mayor in Monday's municipal election, Parrish Tung beat Terri Hampson by a single vote.

"On Monday, I believe my count at that time was 235, while Terri's count was 231, which is close enough," Tung said.

"Of course she asked for a recount because the vote is that close."

Once the recount was completed on Wednesday, the results were even closer.

With 233 votes to Hampson's 232, "Parrish Tung retains his position as mayor-elect," the town said in a notice posted to its website.

Tung was breathing easier after that.

"Somebody, unfortunately, has to lose," he said.

Despite the close outcome, Hampson is taking it well.

"When I saw the number I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' " she said. "It's been a little bit of a roller-coaster ride; obviously a lot of emotions, but I always say democracy is not always easy."

Submitted by Terri Hampson
Submitted by Terri Hampson

Hampson can't help but to look back at her campaign and wonder if she could have done something to swing the outcome in her favour.

"We could have all worked harder for sure, we could have knocked on one more door, we could have passed out one more brochure," she said.

"But I'm very proud of how we ran it and the people involved on my team."

Both Hampson and Tung say they are glad the contest didn't end in a draw.

"That would be the toughest situation," Tung explained.

Here's what would have happened, according to Section 99 of Alberta's Local Authorities Election Act.

The legislation stipulates that if two or more candidates receive the same number of votes, the returning officer must write their names "separately on blank sheets of paper of equal size and of the same colour and texture" and then fold them "in a uniform manner" so that the names are concealed.

The pieces of paper are then to be deposited "in a receptacle" before someone is directed to withdraw one of the sheets.

"The returning officer shall declare the candidate whose name appears on the withdrawn sheet to have one more vote than the other candidate," the act dictates.

Hampson said winning in that way would have been worse than losing.

"I would have rather lost by one vote than have my name go into a hat and picked out in the event of a tie," she said.

'We do need your vote and it does matter'

She said the narrow margin between winner and loser should serve as a reminder that every vote counts.

"When you're sitting on your couch and go, 'Meh, that's OK, they don't need mine, I'll just stay home today,' they're mistaken," she said. "We do need you, we do need your vote and it does matter."

The loss won't deter Hampson, who served as an Elk Point councillor during the previous term.

The 49-year-old plans to run for mayor again in the next municipal election.

"The work starts now, and it will continue until hopefully I get back to the table four years from now," she said.

Tung is also no stranger to politics.

He's starting his fifth term as mayor of Elk Point. He and the town's newly elected councillors will take their oaths of office on Monday.

The 70-year-old says this will likely be his last go-round as Elk Point's mayor.

"My wife is really forgiving but she said, 'That should be your last one,'" Tung said.

"I said, 'Yes, ma'am.'"

Elk Point, population 1,450, is 220 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

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