Lake Babine Nation concluded their elections but not without a controversy following the results.
Last week, Lake Babine Nation chief and councillors were sworn in after the election results were declared on June 22. The declaration however, was swiftly followed by an update stating a recount was in progress for the Tachet councillor positions.
Initially, Mildred George and Dolores Alec were declared as Tachet councillors with 60 and 49 votes respectively. However, after the recount on June 23, Mildred George had 54 votes and Wayne Johnson 44 votes and were declared as having secured the councillor positions for Tachet council.
“I have been a victim of this in the past and want to speak in support of Dolores Alec who was ousted after the recount,” said Mildred George. George said that OneFeather, which is the organization that managed the election, has done this before and it was baffling and completely unclear as to why they needed to do the recount at all.
Another member, Rose Findlay, told Lakes District News that this wasn’t the first error on the part of OneFeather.
“There have been several missteps all throughout this election from handing out extra ballots, to this recount. It doesn’t make sense why they needed to do the recount when we were right there when the votes were counted and saw the numbers and signatures live,” she said.
This confusion around the elections has several members of the First Nation frustrated and worried about the validity of the election. However, election officer Drew Shaw confirmed that the results were verified and valid.
“All of the vote counts are correct for all of the positions — not just the Tachet Councillor position. I went through and double and triple-checked the ballots by hand once I had all of them from their six different locations around British Columbia.”
According to Shaw, an electronic or WiFi issue occured when the results were inputted in Fort Babine. Some numbers were initially uploaded in the wrong place from Fort Babine and used for total count in Burns Lake. He insisted that this was not a counting error by the election officer onsite but a connectivity or WiFi issue as when the officer updated his totals later on his personal machine, they didn’t sync with the shared system.
“Unfortunately, we work in remote communities where wifi strength and connectivity are often an issue in the evening, when internet usage in such communities is at its highest, and this can slow computer networks down on freeze them completely. For this reason, we often double-check our system when we return to our hotel in a larger centre like Smithers from having worked during the day in a smaller place like Fort Babine,” said Shaw.
Shaw also said that all the updates, the recounts, the numbers were first shared with the candidates and immediately with all the members.
“It is reasonable for one of the candidates in this situation to be disappointed by the change in the result, and my heart goes out to her,” he said, adding that however as in any election, re-counts and double-checks are part of the process, and when those re-counts or double-checks confirm different data than is initially announced, those initial announcements need to be revised.
“Because the most important thing in any election is that the people elected reflect the numbers of ballots cast by voters. The updated count and results reflect the votes cast and the will of the Lake Babine voters.”
Several members of the First Nation are still continuing to come forward over the issues in this year’s election and more information on this will be available in the coming days.