Vancouver South recount: Don’t shoot the (electoral) messenger, y’all.

Okay, first off, I don’t blame people for raising a ruckus over the revelation that the judge who performed the recount in Vancouver South last week didn’t bother to open all the ballot boxes, instead choosing to re-check a random sampling of the 42,076 votes that were cast on election day – particularly when the margin between Liberal incumbent Ujjal Dosanjh and Conservative challenger Wai Young  dropped to just 22 votes. At the same time, however, it seems as though someone should probably point out that, contrary to the carefully coddled conspiracy theories so cherished by some denizens of the blogosphere, Elections Canada had nothing to do with the decision to conduct a partial recount, which was made by the presiding judge – in this case, British Columbia Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm – in accordance with the guidelines set out by the Canada Elections Act, and also detailed here. Not even the Chief Electoral Officer himself has the power to appeal or overturn the result, which is considered final.

If this is sufficiently disturbing as to threaten a mass loss of faith in our electoral system, the solution would be to amend the current Act to remove any allowance for judicial discretion in determining how to proceed after a recount is ordered. Of course, given the sheer volume of ballots that would have to be re-recorded, however, that might also mean raising the threshold for an automatic recount – which is currently triggered by any margin closer than 1/1000th of total votes cast – or, alternately, relax the requirement that the judge examine every ballot personally, and instead designate clerks or court officers – or other agreed-upon third parties – as proxies. There are, in other words, any number of ways to improve the existing recount process, now that we’ve become aware of a possible inconsistency – perceived or otherwise — not one of which requires the now familiar demonizing of Elections Canada as a catspaw for the Liberal Party.

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