Kingston’s municipal election on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022 produced some close races throughout the city, however, no race was as tight as the one in Loyalist-Cataraqui District, which saw Paul Chaves defeat Jacqui Collier by just 35 votes. The closeness of that contest prompted Collier to issue a statement on Tuesday that she had requested a recount with the City’s Elections Office.
“It appears at this time, that I have likely lost this election by 35 votes. Oh my! Such an incredibly narrow end! As it falls within such a tight margin, a recount was requested and we await a definitive response from the elections office,” Collier posted to social media on Tuesday. However, in a press release issued by the City of Kingston on Wednesday, it became clear that the path toward a recount is a bit more complicated.
“The City of Kingston’s Elections Office is aware that reports of vote recounts in the Loyalist-Cataraqui district for the 2022 Municipal Elections have been shared in the media,” the City’s release reads.
“The Elections Office wishes to clarify that as of 11 a.m., Oct. 26, the Superior Court of Justice, which would direct the City to conduct a recount if an application has been made by an elector to the court, has not asked the City to do so.”
According to the press release, a recount is only guaranteed in cases where there is a tie between candidates. “Section 56(1)(a) requests the Clerk to hold a recount of the votes for two or more candidates who receive the same number of votes and cannot both or all be declared elected to office.” This was not the case in Loyalist-Cataraqui District, meaning that a recount would have to follow additional procedures as set out in the Municipal Elections Act, 1996.
As stated in the City’s press release, “Section 58(1) states that a person who is entitled to vote in an election and has reasonable grounds for believing the election results to be in doubt may apply to the Superior Court of Justice for an order that the Clerk hold a recount.”
If the Superior Court of Justice were to agree that the application supplied sufficient grounds for a recount, the court would then make an order to hold a recount of the votes case for the range of candidates it deems necessary. Should this recount be ordered, the process moves quite quickly. The press release states that “Section 58(4) provides that the recount shall be held within 15 days after the day the Clerk receives a copy of the order.”
When reached for comment on Wednesday, Collier indicated that she is examining her options for requesting a recount.
“It’s a pretty detailed process where I would need to go through the Superior Court of Justice to get a hearing in order to make the request to have a recount. So, I’m looking into whether or not that’s viable, [and] if I can use legal counsel for that. For example, there are costs associated, I’ve been told it could be approximately $5,000 to $7,000, which is fairly prohibitive.”
Although recount requests may be perceived as an unwillingness on the part of the unsuccessful candidate to accept election results, Collier stressed that she does not view the recount request as being combative or disruptive. “The important thing is that when we have an election, and it is so tight like this, I think that it would be good practice to do recounts. We’re talking about thousands of votes… with only a very narrow margin determining the result.”
One procedure that was noticeably absent from City’s press release is the ability of City Councils to conduct an election recount themselves. Under the Municipal Elections Act, 1996, it is possible for a City Council to order a recount, meaning those concerned about the closeness of Monday’s results may have more options than the City indicated.
“The Municipal Elections Act, 1996 states [in] Section 57 (1) that, within 30 days after the clerk’s declaration of the results, the council of a municipality may pass a resolution requiring a recount of the votes cast for all or specified candidates for an office on the council,” a representative from the City confirmed in response to inquiries from Kingstonist.
It should be noted that regardless of how a recount is ordered, whether by the court or by City Council, the recount is most likely to follow the original voting tabulation method. However, if the matter is dealt with through the courts, and the presiding judge determines that there could have been flaws within the tabulation method itself, the judge does have the ability to “provide that the recount shall be held in a different manner and specify the manner.”
When asked about whether she had considered appealing directly to City Council, Collier reiterated that she was “exploring her options.”
“I understand that it’s very unlikely to change the result. But I do believe that, when we have elections like this and the end result is so close, it is good practice to do a recount,” she said.
Kingstonist will continue to provide updates as this story evolves.