The names of the two lead candidates for Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) director of Electoral Area C were printed on two sheets of paper Friday, dropped into a box, and the winner of the election was chosen.
Wendy Bales won the drawing of lots, an unusual process used in many municipalities after a tie election.
Both Bales and her opponent Annie Silver received 136 votes in the election, leading to the judicial recount at the Chilliwack courthouse.
After the one-hour recount of approximately 370 ballots, FVRD’s chief election officer Jaime Schween announced the results.
“We have a tie,” she said, to which Judge Robert Hamilton agreed.
During the election two ballots received particular scrutiny. The FVRD process directed electors to put an “X” inside the circle of the chosen candidate. One ballot had the box next to Bales’ name coloured in, instead, with an X marked outside the box.
That ballot was initially rejected but later deemed OK, a ruling that led to the tie. In court on Friday, Judge Hamilton agreed that was a good ballot.
Another ballot, however, had part of a mark started in the box for candidate Mel Waardenburg then a full X in the box for Silver. That ballot was rejected.
After the drawing of lots, Silver addressed the court to complain.
“So a precedent has been set,” she said. “When you go to vote, it’s clearly stated how you vote and where you mark your X.… Now obviously we are allowed to vote outside the circle and outside the box and it’s going to be valid.”
She said she planned to file with the BC Supreme Court to have the election overturned. Silver went further, however, alleging “racism and bias” on the part of Bales and her campaign.
Outside the courtroom, she did not elaborate on this other than to say that it was claimed that because Silver is First Nation with the St’sailes band, she doesn’t pay taxes so supposedly doesn’t have the right to direct FVRD tax dollars.
Asked about this accusation, Bales denied it.
“I didn’t say that at all,” Bales told Black Press. “I know she had a right to run in the election.”
And while deemed the winner, Bales had her own criticism over the process and how the election was held in Area C, which includes Hemlock Valley/Harrison Mills/Lake Errock/Morris Valley.
Bales criticized what she called vagueness of some wording in the election act, and during the election she said voters could not easily find polling stations nor was the election advertised well enough.
“People were driving all over the place looking for polling stations,” Bales said.
Mel Waardenburg was the third candidate in the Area C election and received 99 votes. All three were in courtroom 205 Friday morning along with lawyer for the FVRD, chief election officer Schween and two election officials.
It was a closed courtroom for the recount as one by one Schween picked up a green ballot, showed it to the judge and to the candidates in the gallery, and read the names aloud: “Bales… Silver… Waardenburg.”
The counting took about an hour and was completed by 11:05 a.m.
Legislation affords local governments the ability to either have a runoff election or decide the winner by a drawing of lots after a tie. The FVRD’s bylaw orders the drawing of lots.
Names were then required to be written on two pieces of paper folded in the same manner and put into a receptacle large enough to shake around. Then the name was drawn by Hamilton. When it was read aloud that Wendy Bales had won, she made no reaction.