By Tina Comeau
The names on the ballot will be the same as last time, but this time the voting method will be different when it comes to electing a member to the African Nova Scotian seat on the Tri-County Regional School Board.
The special election – which became necessary after a judge voided the results of the October 2012 election – takes place on Saturday, Jan. 11. The polls will open at 8 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
Seeking the seat are candidates Darlene Lawrence, who won the seat in the vote 15 months ago, and Michael Alden Fells, who held the seat prior to the 2012 election and who challenged the results of that election.
The vote in 2012 was conducted largely online and by telephone. Fells lost the seat to Lawrence, who received around 240 more votes than Fells.
But Fells challenged the outcome, pointing out that in some areas more than triple the number of votes had been cast than in previous elections. When this was later explored by the law firm representing Fells, more than 300 people indicated that had mistakenly voted for the seat because they were confused by, or unsure about, the online voting system. These people were not qualified to vote for the African Nova Scotian seat.
This past October, Supreme Court Justice Pierre Muise voided the election, saying the results could not be relied upon. No one challenged Fells’ court application. The seat has sat vacant since that court decision.
This time around voting will only occur by paper ballot at polling stations. The list of qualifications for voting for the seat will be posted at the polls. Returning officer Marie Atkinson says by asking for the ballot in person at the polls, people will have declared themselves to be a qualified voter by self-identifying themselves as such.
According to Section 42A of the Education Act, to vote for the African Nova Scotia member of a school board, voters must be:
• qualified to vote for the school board, and
• be an African Nova Scotian, or a black person, or the parent or guardian of an African Nova Scotian.
The act also states that during school board elections, persons who are qualified to vote for their regional school board member, the African Nova Scotian member of the school board or for the CSAP can only vote for one of these three school board offices.
The Tri-County Regional School Board also has a Mi’kmaq member, but that person is appointed.
In addition to the special election on Jan. 11, advance polls were being held on Jan. 4 and 7, from noon to 8 p.m. at the Yarmouth Lions Club on Parade Street, the fire hall/community centre at 63 King St. in Shelburne, St. Joseph’s Church Hall in Weymouth Falls and at the Digby Legion Branch 20 on Mount Street in Digby.
On the special election day on Jan. 11, voting will be held at the same polling stations as on the days of the advance polls, and will also include polling stations at Par-en-Bas school in Tusket and the Saulnierville Parish Hall.