Results of a recent election at the Smith’s Landing First Nation have been partly overturned by an arbitrator.
The June 12 election results were appealed on June 25 by an appellant who alleged eight separate irregularities.
Arbitrator Donald P Mallon dismissed the majority of the allegations but said significant irregularities were established on two of the eight counts.
As a result, a new election must be held for four councillors. However, Chief Gerry Cheezie’s position is unaffected and he remains in post.
This is the First Nation’s third election – and third election appeal – in four years, Mallon wrote in his report.
Mallon said evidence presented by appellant Dianne Benwell on five grounds did not establish any election irregularities.
He did find the mandatory requirement of a polling station in Fort Fitzgerald, Alberta, was not met – but took no action as nobody involved was impacted.
“The evidence before me was that all eligible voters who reside in Fort Fitzgerald in fact voted,” he wrote in his report, dated July 28. If even one person from the small community had not voted, he wrote, his decision not to overturn the entire election would have been different.
“I am satisfied no voters were disenfranchised by that irregularity,” he wrote.
Mallon also found the electoral officer should not have disqualified Skye MacDonald as a candidate. That error means a new election must be held for the four councillor spots.
Candidates on the ballot in June included Geronimo Paulette, Thaidene Paulette, Delphine Paulette-Clark, Tony Vermillion, Eileen Tourangeau, Fred Daniels, Dianne Benwell, and Miranda Norn.
As this irregularity does not impact the election for chief, Gerry Cheezie will remain in office after defeating Wilfred Paulette by 12 votes in June.
Three elections, three appeals
Mallon reminded members elections and election appeals are expensive.
“These exercises of democracy are no doubt a significant expense for a small First Nation,” he wrote. “They will now incur the cost of yet another election.
“Some witnesses pondered whether a new election would spawn yet another appeal and yet more expense and uncertainty. It would be glib to simply say that is the price of democracy.”
He also pointed out the chief and council cannot continue doing business while there is no council.
Mallon wrote he hoped the First Nation, electoral officers, and future appellants would learn from the three election appeal arbitration rulings.