A recount of ballots following Liard First Nation’s election for chief and council resulted in a redistribution of some votes but ultimately no change in elected officials.
The incumbent chief, however, is alleging “lots of suspect behaviour” took place during the election and is planning on taking legal action.
In an interview following the recount July 6, George Morgan claimed there were “irregularities” surrounding the June 29 election involving the election committee, chief electoral officer, the handling of ballots and voting boxes, and the vote count itself.
“The next step (for me) is to prepare for federal court and take a look at some of these voting irregularities,” Morgan said.
Morgan originally received six fewer votes than chief-elect Stephen Charlie — 75 compared to 81.
The margin was narrowed to just four votes following the recount, with Charlie at 80 votes and Morgan at 76.
Total votes also changed for three other candidates who ran for chief as well as for two candidates who successfully ran for council. Susan Magun, one of nine candidates for chief, went from 57 to 58 votes; Don Magun went from 57 to 56; and Cindy Porter went from 35 to 34.
For councillors, Edward Brodhagen went from 125 to 124 votes, while Derek Loots went from 121 to 120.
Morgan said he had witnesses who were ready to testify about seeing the chief electoral officer, Colleen Craft, in the band office and with Charlie between the election and recount, as well as evidence that ballot boxes had only been guarded by one person or by members of Charlie’s family.
“The chief electoral officer was in the band office last week which seems a little odd to me since we’re heading into a recount, you know, the following week, why would she be in the band office?” he asked. “Why would she be seen around town with the chief-elect when there’s a recount and possible litigation?”
“We’ve had very difficult elections here for a long time, there’s lots of suspect behaviour,” Morgan said later in the interview.
“… I think (the results are) close enough that it’s worth exploration to see if these voting irregularities might throw the results of this election into doubt.”
Craft declined to speak to the News, writing in an email that she’d been “advised not to comment on Mr. Morgan’s opinions.”
Charlie, also reached for comment after the recount, dismissed Morgan’s allegations as “sour grapes,” and said that he “wasn’t worried one bit” about the election or recount.
“He’s got no argument and that’s all I can say. The election was run great, the chief returning officer did a great job, her staff did a great job … The outgoing chief was at the count today and he could not say nothing at all because it was all great,” he said.
Charlie thanked his family and the community, especially the youth, for their support, and said that while he had no “ill will” towards the outgoing chief and council, he was looking forward to have “a really good council to work with.”
“I want to unify the nation, the Kaska Nation — we are better when we are together instead of divided,” he said of his goals for his time in office. “We have to start looking at elders as a priority, our youth for education and work opportunities and you know, just being very transparent and fair in program delivery.”
Morgan, asked about comments from Charlie and on social media that he was being a sore loser over the election results, replied that there were “enough curiosities here that it’s worth pursuing.”
“Considering the irregularities here, considering our long history of having elections that are a little bit funny — no, this is just pursuing what is right in front of our face, is that something funny happened during this election and yeah, that’s about it,” he said.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org