Hearing begins into voter irregularities in Saint John Harbour
The court hearing into voter irregularities in the riding of Saint John Harbour during the 2018 provincial election has begun in Saint John.
It comes nine months to the day after Liberal candidate Gerry Lowe defeated Progressive Conservative hopeful Barry Ogden by ten votes on Sept. 24, 2018.
A recount upheld the tight result, prompting a challenge by Ogden, who applied to have the result thrown out over voter irregularities.
Numerous irregularities were documented in an affidavit prepared by municipal returning officer Patti Nason. Following a review of some 8,000 documents, Nason reported irregularities like electors failing to be struck off of forms once they had voted, forms not being signed by elections staff or forms completed improperly.
The hearing itself stalled before it could even start as legal teams wrangled over what would be the only witness for Ogden’s team, Richard Thorne.
The retired school teacher was a field liaison officer during the 2018 election. An affidavit in his name had been submitted to the court as part of the court record. Ogden’s lawyer, Kelly VanBuskirk, moved to have Thorne added to the witness list.
WATCH: Investigation into alleged Saint John Harbour voter irregularities drags on
But Lowe’s representative, Tom O’Neil objected, arguing the document amounted to what he called “opinion evidence.”
Justice Hugh McLellan chastised the legal teams for another hiccup in the proceeding after nine previous pre-trial hearings. McLellan ruled the affidavit would be removed and Thorne could testify, which he did throughout Monday’s session.
Court heard that, in the lead up to election day, Thorne observed the man in charge of training election day workers in Saint John Harbour, Nathan Davis, teaching the incorrect information to a group of workers. Thorne testified that he advised Davis of the mistake and it was corrected quickly.
Thorne also noted the workers were not put through a mock poll for practice purposes, which is standard procedure.
Davis, court heard, resigned one week before the election, prompting last minute training for Saint John Harbour election workers in another riding.
Thorne also testified that he visited three polling stations on Sept. 24. One, at St. Luke’s Church experienced a multitude of problems on election night, including what Thorne called “missing information.”
Still, following his testimony, Thorne told reporters the public should be confident in the election results in Saint John Harbour.
“Votes were all counted,” Thorne began. “And we produced a result. And then we recounted them all over again with the same result.”
O’Neil is expected to call several witnesses on Tuesday and another later in the week as part of a hearing expected to last five days.
Elections NB lawyer Fred McElman mostly observed Monday’s proceedings and opted to not question Thorne.
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