The Yukon Liberal Party and former MLA Pauline Frost have launched a legal challenge asking for the election results to be declared invalid due to two voters who allegedly cast a ballot without living in the Vuntut Gwitchin riding.
The petition was filed with the Yukon Supreme Court on April 22.
“The result of the election was a tie between the only two candidates in it. The failure to conduct the Election in accordance with the Act resulted in at least two votes being counted that should not have been cast,” reads the document.
“The Applicant, Pauline Frost, respectfully requests that this Honourable Court … declare that the Election was invalid and that the office of Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Electoral District of Vuntut Gwitchin is vacant,” it continues.
NDP candidate Annie Blake was declared the winner of the election after a tie vote of 78-78, which was broken by a name being drawn from a box on April 19.
The petition makes the case that there were two individuals who voted in the election but were not qualified, due to not living in the Vuntut Gwitchin riding.
While the riding is large geographically, no voters live outside of the village of Old Crow.
The list of electors confirmed that an individual named Christopher Schafer voted in the election by special ballot. But the lawsuit claims that Schafer does not live in Old Crow.
It notes that Schafer has not lived in Old Crow for two decades after he was convicted of a sexual assault in the community in 1999.
“From that day [he was arrested], Christopher has never, to my knowledge, been allowed to enter the Village of Old Crow, YT, as requested by the citizens of Vuntut Gwitchin,” reads the affidavit filed by Frost, who said she was concerned about the situation after she noticed his name on the list of electors.
A number of other affidavits from community members also suggest Schafer has not lived in the community for a number of years but normally resides in Whitehorse.
According to email records, Frost asked the Liberal Party to inquire about his inclusion on the list of voters. On April 9, the law firm representing the Liberals reached out to Chief Electoral Officer Maxwell Harvey about the concern that Schafer didn’t live within the riding boundaries.
On April 13, Harvey responded, saying that “An elector who applies for a special ballot, makes the appropriate declarations or identifications, and is approved, can be issued a ballot.”
The lawsuit also challenges the legitimacy of a second voter: Schafer’s daughter Serena Schafer-Scheper, who was raised in Whitehorse but visited grandparents regularly in Old Crow, according to the petition. The lawsuit includes an affidavit from Sandra Charlie, who said that Schafer-Scheper lived with her in Grand Prairie, Alberta from March 2020 to December 2020.
The Yukon Elections Act requires a person to live in the territory for a full year in order to be eligible to vote in the territorial election.
In the list of electors, both Schafer-Scheper and Schafer listed their address as “Old Crow.”
Reached by phone on April 22, Harvey said he had not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit.
“I’ll let the process unfold as it should,” he said.
The case is set to be discussed before a judge on April 30 at 10 a.m. in Whitehorse. Both Blake and Harvey are named as respondents.
In emailed statements, Yukon Liberal Party President Emily Farrell and Frost both said the petition was undertaken in order to “protect the integrity of the democratic process.”
“Yukoners should have confidence in the system and the process that supports elections. When that system is questioned, the proper process must be followed,” Farrell said.
“The petition is about protecting the integrity of the democratic process and the voice of the Vuntut Gwitchin riding. At this time, I am not able to comment further as the matter is before the courts. I refer you to my lawyer, Jim Tucker, for further comment,” said Frost.
The last tie vote in the Vuntut Gwitchin riding also ended in a legal challenge and eventual revote.
In 1996, the riding saw a tied vote between Robert Bruce and Esau Schafer. Bruce won the draw to take the seat, but his opponent launched a similar petition claiming that two voters were ineligible to vote. Eventually, the judge declared the results void and a revote was called, which Bruce won by a small margin.
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