Elections Canada has ruled that the votes cast by nearly 700 students at the University of Guelph Wednesday are valid, after the Conservative Party demanded for the votes to be tossed out.
The Guelph Mercury reported Conservatives claimed that Elections Canada had not sanctioned the polling station, there was partisan campaign material too close to the ballot boxes, and that scrutineers from each party were not monitoring the vote in a letter sent to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer.
However, a press release issued by Election Canada Friday afternoon states that “all information at our disposal indicates that the votes were cast in a manner that respects the Canada Elections Act and are valid.”
The statement goes on to explain that a “well intentioned” returning officer took the initiative to create a special ballot at the university to encourage students to vote. When Elections Canada became aware of this, they instructed the returning officer “not to engage in any further activities of a similar nature.”
“While the initiative at the University of Guelph was not pre-authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer, the Canada Elections Act provides that electors may apply for and vote by special ballot,” the statement explains.
“A special ballot coordinator, appointed by the local returning officer, oversaw the activities at the University of Guelph.”
In response to the ruling, the Conservative Party released a statement stating that they “applaud the decision not to disenfranchise University of Guelph students because of errors by the local Returning Officer. These student voters should not suffer because of mistakes by the local election officials.”
A spokesperson for Elections Canada told the Guelph Mercury that special ballots had been held on campus for the past two federal elections without any issues.
Elections Canada has also asked that all returning officers stop setting up such polls at universities.