Alexander election processes under microscope
Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 06:00 am
Questions were raised over some of the processes used in recent elections on the Alexander First Nation at an appeal hearing that started this week.
Roughly 15 people gathered at the Alexander First Nation Community Centre Monday morning as appellant Rodney Yellowdirt launched into his case alleging corruption in the elections for chief and council, which were held Aug. 11. Thirty-three candidates ran for six council seats in that race, alongside eight for chief.
Yellowdirt called chief electoral officer Marvin Yellow Horn, who is based out of Lethbridge and has conducted band elections for reserves across Alberta since 1999, and his assistant Casey Auigbelle, who lives in Alexander, before the three-member board Monday, asking several questions about how the election was administered.
Of particular concern was the list of eligible voters and the process by which some people were added to the list and others removed. Voters must have lived on the reserve for at least one month prior to the election in order to cast a ballot.
In his testimony, Auigbelle detailed that, to be added to the voters’ list, a person would have to fill out, sign and turn in a residency declaration form and swear the information on the form in front of a commissioner of oaths.
However, to be deleted, a person or a third party simply had to make a statement and fill out a form, without the commissioner’s involvement.
“To me, there is no process for this,” Yellowdirt said. “For someone to just say this person should not vote because they don’t live here, the first word that comes to my mind is discrimination.”
Yellowdirt added that there was one case that showed the flaws in the system where a person applied to be added to the voters’ list and went through the necessary steps, despite several band members telling officials he did not live on the reserve.
“It’s his [the voter’s] responsibility to prove, basically, if he does live on the reserve,” Auigbelle told the panel, noting that all applicants are informed that lying under oath is a criminal offence.
“To prove someone is living in the community one month prior to the election is very difficult, other than the person coming forward,” Yellow Horn added. “We’re not going to sit on the other side of the table and say you’re lying.”
Auigbelle was also adamant that deletions were not done based simply on word of mouth.
“If they don’t want to fill it out [the proper form], their word is as good as mine,” he said. “Lots of people mentioned to me, ‘This person shouldn’t be [voting], this person shouldn’t be,’ but I can’t do anything about it [without paperwork].”
Compounding Yellowdirt’s argument was the case he brought up of Brenda Arcand, a woman who should have been eligible to cast a ballot in the elections but said she was denied the right to vote on election day.
A letter written by Arcand that Yellowdirt entered into evidence said that she spoke with a returning officer at the polling station on election day, but neither Auigbelle nor Yellow Horn recalled such a conversation.
“I never saw her come into the polling station. I never turned her away,” Auigbelle said.
Yellowdirt also brought up another incident on election day where a woman was told by another person at the polling station that she should not be voting and was “publicly humiliated,” even though that person was not an election official.
“I was not aware of that. She should have brought that to our attention,” Yellow Horn said.
Herbert R. Arcand was elected chief in the August election. Councillors voted in included incumbents Bernard Paul and Kurt Burnstick, along with newcomers Curtis “Chewy” Arcand, Marty J. Arcand, Armand Arcand and Marcel “Jack” Arcand.
The appeal hearing was scheduled to continue Tuesday, and possibly next Monday and Tuesday as well if needed.