Court case begins on contested election for African Nova Scotian seat

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Jonathan Riley
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Lawyers want to talk to everyone who voted

Darlene Lawrence, who won the Africian Nova Scotian seat in the election, is sworn in as a new school board member by Judge Robert Prince. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Lawyers will be contacting everyone who cast a vote in the election for the African Nova Scotia seat on the Tri-County Regional School board.

They will be asking if the voters are willing to sign an affidavit indicating about their eligibility to vote for the seat.

Lawyers for Michael Alden Fells have already contacted around 100 voters and 70 of them said they would willingly sign an affidavit.

Justice Pierre Muise oversaw hours of debate in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Yarmouth on Thursday, Nov. 22, about how to proceed with Fell’s application to have the October school board election for the seat voided.

Fells lost to Darlene Lawrence and contends

that people who were not qualified to vote for the African Nova Scotian seat voted anyway, either because they were confused by the electronic and telephone voting process, or because once they got onto this computer screen, they could only get out of it by casting a vote.

Fell’s lawyer Brent Silver told the court that hundreds of voters turned out in municipal units that had seen no votes for this seat in the last election and other municipal unit saw triple the number of votes.

Lawyers representing the municipal units that used electronic voting were also present.

Silver contacted voters using a list that showed if they voted for the African Nova Scotian seat but not how they voted.

To save his client money, however, Silver proposed a process where all of the people who voted would receive a draft affidavit. A subpoena would also be included in case the other lawyers wanted to cross examine.

Lawrence, the candidate who won the election, suggested there were a variety of reasons why more people may have voted in this election: the convenience of the electronic vote, the choice on the ballot and the fact that people who may not have wanted to publicly declare themselves as African Nova Scotian at polling stations in past elections were able to cast their vote this time in private.

“I just think we need to be careful with what questions are being asked and how they are being asked and whether people are being intimidated,” she said, saying people should not be getting affidavits and subpoenas simply as part of a fishing expedition.

Lawrence said if people made an honest mistake and are willing to tell the court, then she is fine with that, but people shouldn’t be harassed into proving they are African Nova Scotian.

Both sides agreed to Justice Muise’s suggestion  of contacting all the voters but only the ones who willingly wanted to cooperate would receive an affidavit.

The matter will be back in court in Digby on March 6.

Organizations: African Nova Scotian, Tri-County Regional School board, Nova Scotia Supreme Court

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Yarmouth, Digby

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Recent comments

  • Christian Thibaudeau
    December 04, 2012 - 09:15

    Well said Mr. Theriault. This change was well overdue. Perhaps Mr. Fells should simply accept the choice of the people and focus on a new future.

  • Heather Burlingham
    November 28, 2012 - 07:46

    So how will this prove anything if people 'voluntarily' sign an affidavit? I agree with Ms. Lawrence that making the voting easier may have encouraged more people to vote.

    • Bill Theriault
      November 28, 2012 - 09:56

      Good for Darlene, this position needed a change so everyone has a chance to put their view forward and promote good will.