VOTER FRAUD IN­VES­TI­GA­TION

Po­lice look­ing into use of app to try to buy votes

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - JEN­NIFER SALT­MAN with re­search by li­brar­ian Car­olyn Soltau jen­salt­man@post­media.com twit­ter.com/jen­salt­man dfu­mano@post­media.com twit­ter.com/fu­mano

With just over a week to go be­fore B.C.’s civic elec­tions, po­lice in the prov­ince’s three largest mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions of voter fraud and vote buy­ing.

On Fri­day, the cities of Rich­mond, Van­cou­ver and Burn­aby were look­ing into mes­sages cir­cu­lat­ing on the Chi­nese so­cial me­dia app WeChat. It ap­peared the Rich­mond-based Wen Zhou Friend­ship So­ci­ety had en­cour­aged peo­ple in a pri­vate chat group to vote for cer­tain can­di­dates in Rich­mond, Van­cou­ver and Burn­aby, and of­fered money.

The City of Rich­mond said it had re­ferred the mat­ter to Rich­mond RCMP for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion and would not com­ment fur­ther while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was un­der­way.

In a state­ment, the City of Van­cou­ver said it was aware of the mes­sages and had re­ferred the mat­ter to the Van­cou­ver Po­lice De­part­ment “as a po­ten­tial of­fence.” Van­cou­ver po­lice spokesman Const. Ja­son Doucette said the de­part­ment “is aware of an al­le­ga­tion of voter ma­nip­u­la­tion.”

“The Rich­mond RCMP is lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the VPD has as­signed de­tec­tives to work with them,” Doucette said.

Ac­cord­ing to Burn­aby RCMP, a file has been opened and it will also as­sist Rich­mond RCMP and work with Burn­aby’s chief elec­toral of­fi­cer on the al­le­ga­tions.

The Wen Zhou Friend­ship So­ci­ety did not an­swer calls or emails Fri­day, but the Rich­mond News re­ported the so­ci­ety had asked mem­bers to vote for cer­tain can­di­dates and of­fered a $20 “trans­porta­tion sub­sidy.”

A vol­un­teer with the so­ci­ety told the Rich­mond News they had re­scinded the of­fer af­ter dis­cov­er­ing it was il­le­gal.

Records show the Wen Zhou Friend­ship So­ci­ety was in­cor­po­rated in 2001, but dis­solved in July of this year for fail­ure to file manda­tory re­ports with the govern­ment. The so­ci­ety was re­stored just last week, af­ter one of its direc­tors filed an ap­pli­ca­tion for restora­tion. Three of its direc­tors have listed ad­dresses in Van­cou­ver, with the fourth in Rich­mond.

In Sur­rey, al­le­ga­tions of voter fraud be­came pub­lic two weeks ago, when anti-crime group Wake Up Sur­rey sent let­ters to the Sur­rey RCMP and Elec­tions B.C. al­leg­ing that there was a “well-co­or­di­nated elec­tion fraud scheme un­der­way within the South Asian com­mu­nity.”

Sur­rey elec­tion of­fi­cials also raised red flags, con­tact­ing the B.C. Min­istry of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs and then the po­lice about con­cerns they had with some of the ap­pli­ca­tions they had re­ceived.

Sur­rey RCMP have ex­am­ined 73 ap­pli­ca­tions to vote by mail that were iden­ti­fied by Sur­rey’s chief elec­tions of­fi­cer as hav­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. As of Fri­day, Sur­rey po­lice had in­ter­viewed 69 out of 73 peo­ple whose per­sonal in­for­ma­tion was used to com­plete an ap­pli­ca­tion.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed that 67 of these ap­pli­ca­tions were fraud­u­lent, in that they were not com­pleted or signed by the voter listed on the ap­pli­ca­tion.

Two of the 67 ap­pli­ca­tions re­quested bal­lots be sent to ad­dresses that were not as­so­ci­ated to the named ap­pli­cant, while the other 65 ap­pli­ca­tions listed the ap­pli­cant’s cor­rect ad­dress for de­liv­ery of the vot­ing bal­lot.

“I think the im­por­tant thing for peo­ple to know is no bal­lots were sent out and no vot­ing took place as a re­sult of these fraud al­le­ga­tions,” said Sur­rey RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturko.

Sur­rey’s chief elec­tions of­fi­cer An­thony Ca­puc­cinello Iraci amended the city’s process to ap­ply for and re­ceive a mail-in bal­lot on Oct. 1 to pre­serve the in­tegrity of the elec­tion. Vot­ers seek­ing mail-in bal­lots must now pick them up in per­son, show­ing photo iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Ac­com­mo­da­tions are con­sid­ered for peo­ple with “dis­abil­i­ties, ill­ness or in­jury ” and as­sessed on a case-by-case ba­sis.

Po­lice say that, to date, in­ves­ti­ga­tors have found no ev­i­dence to link any can­di­date or party to the fraud­u­lent ap­pli­ca­tions in Sur­rey. There is also no in­di­ca­tion that peo­ple were in­duced or in­tim­i­dated in any man­ner to pro­vide their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion or to vote for a spe­cific can­di­date.

Two per­sons of in­ter­est have been iden­ti­fied and in­ter­viewed, but po­lice have not yet de­ter­mined whether crim­i­nal charges or charges un­der the Lo­cal Govern­ment Act will be rec­om­mended.

Wake Up Sur­rey spokesper­son Sukhi Sandhu said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­sults thus far val­i­date the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s con­cerns.

“It’s a sad day for our city, it’s a sad day for democ­racy in our city that due to the un­eth­i­cal be­hav­iour of a small group our rep­u­ta­tion has been tar­nished,” Sandhu said.

Sandhu said that if Wake Up Sur­rey, the city and po­lice had not acted so quickly, the fraud would have been much worse.

“We be­lieve this was just the tip of the ice­berg,” he said.

Safe Sur­rey Coali­tion may­oral can­di­date Doug McCallum thanked Wake Up Sur­rey for bring­ing the fraud con­cerns to the at­ten­tion of the au­thor­i­ties.

“The elec­tion fraud ap­pears to be stopped in its tracks,” he said. “At the end of the day, I hope those re­spon­si­ble face crim­i­nal charges.”

Sur­rey First may­oral can­di­date Tom Gill said he had hoped the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be wrapped up this week, but he ap­pre­ci­ates the up­date from po­lice. In par­tic­u­lar, he was happy to see that there was no link to any one party or can­di­date — de­spite the ru­mours that have cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia — and that the scope of the fraud was smaller than ini­tially al­leged. He lamented the fact that the al­le­ga­tions had dis­tracted from the elec­tion cam­paign.

“It’s hor­ri­ble that you have one or two or three in­di­vid­u­als that are re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing such chaos in the com­mu­nity,” Gill said. “It’s un­for­tu­nate that so­cial me­dia has picked up these al­le­ga­tions and per­mit­ted peo­ple to be slan­der­ous, and hide be­hind a veil and make com­men­tary that’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Bruce Hayne, who is run­ning for mayor with In­tegrity Now, said that in spite of the “dis­heart­en­ing ” at­tempts at fraud, he is con­fi­dent in the elec­toral sys­tem and vot­ers should be, too.

“Our elec­toral of­fi­cer at the City of Sur­rey caught it right away and the RCMP were on to it right away. At least the sys­tem is work­ing to catch this type of thing,” he said.

Burn­aby Mayor Derek Corrigan didn’t re­ply to a re­quest for com­ment. His op­po­nent Mike Hur­ley said: “It’s con­cern­ing that vote tam­per­ing can be hap­pen­ing. I guess it’s re­al­ity these days, but any act that cor­rupts the fair vot­ing process can’t be tol­er­ated ... It’s very, very se­ri­ous.”

Elec­tion day is Satur­day, Oct. 20.

The im­por­tant thing for peo­ple to know is no bal­lots were sent out and no vot­ing took place as a re­sult of these fraud al­le­ga­tions.

ARLEN RE­DEKOP

Sur­rey’s chief elec­tions of­fi­cer An­thony Ca­puc­cinello Iraci has changed the mail-in bal­lot process af­ter prob­lems were iden­ti­fied.

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