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Municipal candidate suing City of Cambridge over alleged election mistakes

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A candidate in Cambridge’s 2022 municipal election is taking the city to court, asking a judge to determine whether the vote was valid.

Nate Whalen finished second in the race to represent Ward 3, a result he says he’s happy with as a first-time candidate. But he claims he witnessed numerous issues throughout the course of the election that led him to launch a lawsuit.

“It’s not one or two mistakes - or a few mistakes - that might not make a huge difference to the election or might not impact the results,” Whalen says. “In this case, there are dozens of examples that we’ve come up with and identified that were not in accordance with the municipal elections act.”

Among his numerous concerns is the decision two days before voting day to postpone the election for the area’s Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) trustees after it was discovered two candidates’ names were missing from the ballot.

Whalen is also questioning why one potential candidate was told after the nomination deadline she could not run due to a missing signature while another candidate was allowed to re-submit illegible documentation after the same deadline.

Whalen also lists concerns around scrutineering and technology issues on election day that he believes impacted voters abilities to cast a ballot.

Whalen says this is all especially important in light that there were a number of close races.

“About 10 of the 17 positions were elected within 5 per cent of the electorate, and some of them were 46 votes, 100-something votes, so it’s not many in a population of 95,000 or so electors,” Whalen says.

Whalen says that while a byelection would be inconvenient, it is one possible outcome of the case.

“It’s the right thing to do, to hold a byelection, if the judge decides it was not a valid election process full of integrity.”

The City of Cambridge declined to speak with CTV News about the case, with a spokesperson writing, “this is a legal matter which is before the courts. To ensure the integrity of that process, the City of Cambridge will not engage in discussion about this matter in the media and has no further comment.”

However, an affidavit filed by City Clerk Danielle Manton as part of the case outlines the access provided to scrutineers and states “there was no interruption to the ability to vote online during election day.”

Whalen says campaign financing rules mean he is currently forced to represent himself in this case. He’s hoping the lawsuit will make its way through the system relatively quickly, given it involves election results. But he’s also hoping his efforts will set new standards.

“The ultimate goal is to make sure that there is accountability in this election, so that we create precedent that is educating clerks and municipalities all across Ontario to help them do elections better,” Whalen says.

Whalen adds it’s important people are able to trust the electoral process and the results. “It’s about our collective future and making sure democracy is well respected for years to come.”

POLITICAL SCIENTIST SPEAKS OUT

Retired political science professor Peter Woolstencroft says he was “stunned” by the way the Cambridge municipal election unfolded.

In particular, Woolstencroft has concerns about the WCDSB trustee ballot error, saying he’s never heard of another case in Canada where an election had to be stopped and redone because of missing names on the ballot.

“I do have a serious concern about the do-over school board election because I think there is an advantage for people who do have access to money and a disadvantage to people who don’t have access to money,” he says.

Woolstencroft wonders if the results would have been different without the need to redo that particular vote.

Woolstencroft says having a judge review the election is worth it, given the numerous concerns, adding it’s “peculiar” to have so many things happen in the same election.

“Accidents happen, human systems fail us, people make mistakes. But there is a cost. There’s a question of trust.”

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