Election 2015: Dirty ballots in advance polls have Kelowna resident concerned

Complaints of spoiled or "dirty" ballots have been a made across the country this election.

Long line-ups to cast ballots isn’t the only complaint Kelowna residents had about Election Canada’s advance polling stations.

David Janko said a family friend and his daughter had to contend with dirty ballots and surly polling station volunteers.

“(The family friend) went in to the advance polling station and there was one ballot handed to him, and it had a mark on Conservative candidate, so he took it out (of the booth) and said ‘this ballot isn’t good,'” said Janko.

“The person handling the thing, seemed frustrated with him, but he got a second ballot and it had a mark, too, also next to the Conservative candidate.”

The young man returned that ballot as well. When he was given a third, it came out OK, but Janko said it’s raised some concerns about what’s happening with the process.

“I don’t know who is in charge of Elections Canada’s printing, but with two ballots tainted with the same candidate, that brings up questions,” Janko said.

He’s also bothered that the manner of volunteers dealing with new voters was so poor.

“It’s annoying to hear they were treated that way … and doesn’t encourage youth to vote in the future.”

Complaints of spoiled or “dirty” ballots have been a made across the country this election.

Chris Quarrie, a teacher in Vancouver, said that when he went to vote at a Point Grey polling station he was given a ballot that “had been pre-marked, with what looked like black streaks, in the ‘circle’ where you mark your X,” in a  Facebook post that had been shared  nearly 20,000 times.

He, like Janko’s friend, also returned the ballot, and found his second choice spoiled. First was marked Conservative, but it was Green Party the second time.

Third time was the charm, and he got to make his own choice.

BC Civil Liberties Association lawyer Laura Track said ballots that already had marks on them when they were given to the voter  were observed in a number of ridings over the weekend, including one she was at.

“I saw one voter return his ballot because it had a faint line through one of the circles where the voter is supposed to make their mark,” she wrote in a blog post.

“I don’t know if this would have been enough to spoil the ballot, but it might have. Check your ballot, and if there’s any kind of weirdness to it, return it and ask for a new one.”

Dorothy Sitek, the B.C. media contact with Elections Canada, said she can’t speak to any specific issues, given she wasn’t there and didn’t see the ballot. But she pointed out there are checks and balances in place to ensure voters use their democratic right effectively.

“Voters who have any questions or concerns about a ballot should ask to speak to the person in charge – that’s the Central Poll Supervisor and they are in charge at every polling location,” Sitek said in an email.

“It’s also important to know that every ballot handed to a voter must be initialed by the Deputy Returning Officer  on the back of the ballot. If for some reason the ink bleeds through to the front of the ballot, for instance, it would be easily and immediately recognized as the DRO’s initials because it is the DRO who is the also the same person who examines every ballot cast at the end of each voting day and determines if it’s valid or not.  In such a case it would be considered valid.”

Election Day is Monday.