News / Calgary

Recount ordered in Calgary's tight Ward 1 councillor race

A recount has been ordered in the closest race of Calgary's 2013 municipal election.

After all the ballots in Ward 1 were counted, Ward Sutherland led Chris Harper by a slim, 85-vote margin, or 0.38 per cent of the 22,371 ballots cast.

Returning officer Barb Clifford announced the recount Tuesday afternoon.

"A recount is occurring because it has been determined that the number of rejected ballots on which a vote was cast is higher than the difference between the top two candidates," reads a statement from the city.

Earlier in the day, Harper told Metro he was waiting on a decision from Clifford and had already sought legal advice on the election results.

"We have had anomalies at polling stations," he said. "I can't get into details, because we want the lawyers to deal with all this, but there were anomalies that could have affected the outcome of the election."

Harper said that was based on "feedback from our scrutineers" in Tuscany and other areas of Ward 1, but declined to get into further detail.

Harper later noted those anomalies were not the reason for the official recount, however.

Sutherland said he was up until 3 a.m. watching the results roll in as he and Harper leap-frogged each other for the voting lead at various points throughout the night.

"It was like a like a hockey game – back and forth all the time," he said. "We knew it was going to be close, but this is uncharted waters for it to be this close for a councillor."

Clifford said recounts are actually quite common, and she's only overseen one election where there was none.

"One year, before I started, they did 18," Clifford said. "Recounts are not abnormal."

The process should take less than a day and recounted results should be available Wednesday, she added.

Sutherland welcomed that.

"Tomorrow's going to be the conclusion," he said. "If (Harper) chooses to move forward legally because there's some other issue, that's his prerogative, but as far as I'm concerned, if it's closed tomorrow, it's closed for me."

According to Alberta Municipal Affairs, a returning officer can call an official recount and any member of the electorate can also request one through the courts.

With respect to the 2013 election, the Municipal Affairs website states: "The returning officer may make a recount if a candidate, official agent or a scrutineer shows grounds that the count of votes is inaccurate. The returning officer may also consider the number of rejected ballots, valid ballots objected to, or any administrative or technical errors. If a recount is requested, a recount application must be made by 4:00 p.m. on October 23, 2013.

"Any elector may ask for a judicial recount by filing a notice of motion for a recount with the clerk of the Court of Queen’s Bench before November 9, 2013. See sections 98 and 103 of the Local Authorities Election Act."

Clifford said it's rare for recounts to overturn the initial results.

"I think I've had it had happen twice," she said. "Most of the time, the results change, but it confirms the person who was ahead."

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