An individual accused of casting an invalid vote in the Vuntut Gwitchin riding by former MLA Pauline Frost is arguing that his vote should be counted.
Christopher Schafer, who voted in the riding despite being incarcerated in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, has been granted intervenor status in the lawsuit between Frost, Chief Electoral Officer Maxwell Harvey and election victor Annie Blake.
Intervenor status allows Schafer to enter into the lawsuit and combat Frost’s claims that the Vuntut Gwitchin result should be overthrown because two people voted illicitly.
Schafer is arguing that he was a qualified elector and that his incarceration in Whitehorse is a unique circumstance that calls into question the rights of imprisoned people to vote in the “electoral district of their intended residence.”
He is arguing that the residency requirement in the Elections Act is not as cut-and-dry as Frost presents.
“The Elections Act is not self-contained or simple and must be interpreted in accordance with Charter rights, aboriginal laws and conventions including the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People,” reads his argument in court documents.
In an affidavit, Schafer explained why he voted in the community.
“I voted in Old Crow in the last election because it’s my home. I am Vuntut Gwitchin. The land there is who I am. My parents live in Old Crow. My daughter lives in Old Crow,” he wrote. “For me, interest is very simple, which is to have my vote counted.”
The original lawsuit filed by Frost’s legal team includes criminal records that show Schafer was convicted of sexual assault in the community in 1999. He has been involved in the justice system since then, and Frost claims he was barred from the community.
“I have a story that I want to tell this court. This is not as black and white as it looks,” he wrote in his affidavit. “I am able to provide the court with a perspective that relates to democratic rights for people in jail.”
Justice Suzanne Duncan granted intervenor status to Schafer on May 4, on the grounds that there was public interest in his hearing about how the election policies affect incarcerated Yukoners.
His submissions are restricted to five pages on that topic.
Whether Schafer can make oral arguments at the hearing will be decided at a later date.
The other vote being called into question in the Frost case, which was originally filed on April 22, is the one cast by Serena Schafer-Scheper. While the Elections Act requires voters to have resided in the Yukon for a full 12 months before the election, Schafer-Scheper attended school in Alberta during much of the previous year.
Schafer-Scheper argued in her submission that her residence in Alberta was temporary and that her demonstrated intention was to return to Old Crow. She argued it is often necessary for young people to temporarily leave the Yukon for educational opportunities.
Justice Duncan said that her arguments didn’t make the bar for inclusion in the case.
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