Voter fraud ev­i­dence dis­cov­ered in Bri­tish Columbia

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - XIAO XU VAN­COU­VER

Po­lice in sev­eral Van­cou­ver-area mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions of voter ma­nip­u­la­tion, with RCMP in Sur­rey, B.C., say­ing they’ve found ev­i­dence of elec­toral fraud, while of­fi­cials in Rich­mond, Burn­aby and Van­cou­ver are in­ves­ti­gat­ing a pur­ported vote-buy­ing scheme.

The Sur­rey RCMP said in a news re­lease on Fri­day that they have in­ter­viewed 69 peo­ple whose per­sonal in­for­ma­tion was used to com­plete ap­pli­ca­tions for ab­sen­tee bal­lots. Of those, only two were com­pleted by the voter listed on the ap­pli­ca­tion. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was prompted last month by Sur­rey chief elec­tions of­fi­cer An­thony Ca­puc­cinello, who said he and his team dis­cov­ered the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties af­ter look­ing at 160 ap­pli­ca­tions for ab­sen­tee bal­lots.

The con­cern was flagged just as ab­sen­tee bal­lots for the Oct. 20 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in Bri­tish Co- lumbia were set to be mailed to res­i­dents.

The city halted the mail-out and any­one want­ing an ab­sen­tee bal­lot must now pick one up in per­son, show iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and sign for the pack­age.

Po­lice say the in­ves­ti­ga­tion team has found no ev­i­dence to link any civic elec­tion can­di­date or party to the fake ap­pli­ca­tions, but two peo­ple of in­ter­est have been iden­ti­fied and crim­i­nal charges or charges un­der the Lo­cal Govern­ment Act will be con­sid­ered.

Also Fri­day, po­lice ser­vices were for­warded con­cerns from Rich­mond, Burn­aby and Van­cou­ver af­ter a Rich­mond-based group call­ing it­self the Canada Wen­zhou Friend­ship So­ci­ety posted on WeChat, a Chi­nese-lan­guage so­cial-me­dia app, that it would pro­vide vot­ers with a $20 “trans­porta­tion fee” if they went to the polls. The post en­cour­aged its mem­bers to vote for Chi­nese-Cana­dian may­oral and coun­cil can­di­dates.

“To en­cour­age peo­ple to ac­tively vote in the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions, Wen­zhou Friend­ship So­ci­ety will sub­si­dize every­one who votes with $20 trans­porta­tion fee,” the post says.

In the post, the group also asked its mem­bers to sup­port a list of Chi­nese-Cana­dian candi- dates, in­clud­ing Van­cou­ver may­oral can­di­date Wai Young, Rich­mond may­oral can­di­date Hong Guo and Burn­aby coun­cil can­di­date James Wang.

The City of Van­cou­ver said in a state­ment on Fri­day af­ter­noon that it’s aware of the post and is in­ves­ti­gat­ing in con­junc­tion with the City of Rich­mond and City of Burn­aby. It has also re­ferred this mat­ter to the Van­cou­ver Po­lice De­part­ment as a po­ten­tial of­fence.

Rich­mond RCMP says it’s in­ves­ti­gat­ing the is­sue. Burn­aby RCMP con­firms that it has opened a file and will work along with the chief elec­tions of­fi­cer in Burn­aby in as­sist­ing the Rich­mond RCMP with its in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The Globe and Mail called the so­ci­ety Fri­day morn­ing. A vol­un­teer with the group an­swered the phone and said it had can­celled the of­fer the same day it was posted af­ter re­ceiv­ing some crit­i­cism.

Amy, who de­clined to re­veal her last name, said to en­cour­age Chi­nese Cana­di­ans to cast their votes, the group planned to drive vot­ers, es­pe­cially el­derly vot­ers to dif­fer­ent vot­ing lo­ca­tions. She said the idea of the sub­sidy came up when the so­ci­ety re­al­ized that it didn’t have enough peo­ple to pro­vide the trans­porta­tion. The money was meant to help peo­ple sub­si­dize their own trans­port.

She said that she wasn’t clear about who was to pay the sub­sidy, but the of­fer was with­drawn as soon as the so­ci­ety was made aware that what it was do­ing was im­proper.

Rich­mond in­cum­bent coun­cil­lor Chak Au was also on the list. He said he has heard of the is­sue and called such a prac­tice “ab­so­lutely wrong.”

“How can you par­tic­i­pate in the elec­tion in this way in Canada’s demo­cratic so­ci­ety?” he said in an in­ter­view.

Wai Young said that she doesn’t know any­thing about this is­sue.

Ac­cord­ing to the Lo­cal Govern­ment Act, a per­son must not pay, give, lend or pro­cure in­duce­ment, such as money or gifts, to in­duce a per­son to vote. Such prac­tices will be con­sid­ered vote-buy­ing.

Penal­ties for vote-buy­ing can in­clude a fine of up to $10,000, im­pris­on­ment for up to two years, or a pro­hi­bi­tion from hold­ing an elected of­fice for up to seven years.

The RCMP says it doesn’t rou­tinely re­lease de­tails of on-go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions, but the up­date in Sur­rey was in­tended to pro­vide some trans­parency be­fore the elec­tion.

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