It may all come down to luck of the draw.
For one day it looked like Peachland mayoral candidate Harry Gough had ousted incumbent mayor Cindy Fortin from the head of the council table, but an official count witnessed by both candidates on Monday offered a different picture.
There appears to be a tie, with both candidates getting 804 votes. Fortin picked up one extra crucial vote during a verification count that was held Monday, due to the closeness of the race.
With both candidates taking in an equal number of votes, the chief elections officer said she will call for a judicial recount for the mayor’s race. If it’s still a tie, there will be a draw, as per the district’s Election Procedures Bylaw No. 1536 which is governed by provincial law. The names of the two tied candidates to be be placed in a hat and the winner’s name drawn.
As for what caused the ballot to go missing, Chief Election Officer Polly Palmer put out a statement Monday night that said a “a voting machine mis-fed a ballot, which caused the voting machine to jam.”
The machine prompted the presiding election official to re-insert the ballot, but before the official could do so, the mis-fed ballot landed in the sealed ballot box.
“This was immediately reported to the chief elections officer, who made note of the issue,” Palmer said. “No other issues were experienced with the voting machines.
Palmer conducted a verification process in the presence of the two top mayoral candidates and/or their representatives.
“I’m just really happy that this was figured out now,” said Fortin. “I really believe this is the best thing for the community right now. I hope I get in… but, it’s exhausting mentally.”
Fortin said that the whole election was fraught with a level of negativity that she hadn’t experienced previously and whoever ends up mayor is going to have to work and stitch the community back together.
“Let’s lift up the reputation of this town,” she said. “It’s good that people are involved in community in politics… the downside is when people speak negatively.”
Fortin said that already people are online questioning the validity of the verification count and said that their commentary is heading toward “libellous,”and destructive.
Gough didn’t reply to multiple calls, but he made his thoughts known on social media, where the community conversations that Fortin mentioned are playing out.
“Folks, let’s let the process run its course. Appreciate all the support I received. Let the forces deal with it and move on,” said Gough, a former councillor and previous longtime owner of the IGA, on one Peachland-specific page.
Political engagement is something that Peachlanders excel at, with voter turnout repeatedly soaring far above the provincial average. This election, 2,348 residents cast a ballot, which is 52 per cent of the electorate.
The mayoral race in Peachland was also heated, with five candidates competing for the position.
Patrick Van Minsel, Pete Coolio, incumbent Coun. Terry Condon, incumbent Coun. Pam Cunningham, Keith Fielding and incumbent Coun. Mike Kent will form Peachland’s new council.
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