Results from Ward 4 in Calgary’s municipal election will not be undergoing a judicial recount.
According to Coun. Sean Chu’s lawyer, the application for the recount was withdrawn by runner-up DJ Kelly.
“We have accepted his decision and will not seek court costs,” Ramai Alvarez said in a letter.
Kelly confirmed he withdrew the application.
In a statement, he said the decision followed legal opinions from the City of Calgary’s legal team and Justice Kent Davidson, who concurred that the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) gave him no recourse in an election where voting machines were used. The statement said the means to mount a challenge to the LAEA were out of his reach, so he withdrew the application.
On Nov. 10, Kelly filed for the recount after Elections Calgary denied his application for a recount.
At the time, Kelly said pursuing the judicial recount was not related to a CBC report about Chu’s impropriety with a minor while a police officer two decades earlier, but that the difference of 100 votes was enough to warrant a recount
“Regardless of whether or not a recount would have changed the outcome of the election, the current law is that in Calgary, and anywhere in Alberta where a machine is used on election day, there is no way to request a recount,” Kelly said.
Kelly congratulated Chu on being re-elected as the Ward 4 representative, saying residents “deserve strong and effective representation.”
Chu’s lawyer said they consider the matter closed and election results final.
“Councillor Chu looks forward to continuing to represent his community,” Alvarez wrote.
Official results from Elections Calgary show Chu winning with 42.7 per cent of the vote.
Trust in the system
Kelly said he plans to advocate for changes to the act following what he learned about how voting machines affect recounts.
“Our democratic system must be based on trust, and the combination of this section of the LAEA and the choice by the city to use tabulators to achieve a quicker election result means, by law, no confirmation of election results is possible,” he said.
Lisa Young, a professor at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said she was surprised to hear that the use of voting machines precluded the possibility of a recount.
“I think there’s an expectation in elections, no matter how they’re tabulated, that there will be some way that we can verify the outcome,” Young told Global News, noting the Oct. 18 vote showed no implication the machines were malfunctioning.
“But you can certainly imagine a situation in which there might be an allegation like that. And if that were the case, you would absolutely want to be able to have a hand recount to make sure that things were being counted correctly.”
She said a judicially-supervised recount would help instill confidence in a correct vote count.
“It’s one of those extra layers that seldom changes the outcome, but does really leave us believing that our democratic system is functioning as it’s supposed to.”
The City of Calgary first used tabulator machines for the Olympic plebiscite in 2018, but 2021 was the first municipal election that saw them used. Edmonton and Red Deer also have used electronic vote tabulators, and Elections Alberta used automated tabulators in the Calgary Lougheed byelection of 2017.
Young said the use of electronic tabulators in municipal elections in Alberta is relatively new ground and any changes to the Elections Act would have to happen at the provincial level.
She said changes to those acts to allow judicial recounts of machine-counted ballots could stave off doubts of the election process.
“You could end up in a situation where there’s deep distrust of this technology, and it certainly would add to a sense of cynicism or paranoid theories about what’s going on with vote counting,” Young said.
“So that really worries me.”