A judicial recount has been scheduled for this coming Monday to officially declare the winner of the council seat in Halifax’s District 11.
Patty Cuttell won the race to represent Spryfield-Sambro Loop-Prospect Road, beating runner-up Bruce Holland by 28 votes. Given the close result and a delay in reporting the results, Holland called for a recount, telling the Examiner, “I think I owe it to my campaign team and my supporters who have all asked me to ask for one.”
Judge Paul Scovil will hear Holland’s application for a recount on Monday at 9:30am.
“If he rules that the recount can go ahead, then he, court staff and the HRM returning officer will proceed with counting the ballots,” courts spokesperson Jennifer Stairs said in an email.*
The application and, if approved, the recount won’t happen in a courthouse, but in a Dartmouth hotel.
“Due to the number of court staff, candidates, counsel and other participants, there wasn’t a courtroom big enough to accommodate the group and still respect physical distancing, hence the off-site location,” Stairs said.
Due to those space constraints, media won’t be able to watch the recount, but the results will be distributed afterward.
The scheduled recount means Cuttell won’t be sworn in with her colleagues during a ceremony at the Halifax Convention Centre Thursday night.
In a news release on Wednesday, Cuttell’s campaign says she’s “unaware of any instance where a recount has resulted in a change in the election outcome.”
“We have asked for a copy of the submission requesting the recount to understand the basis for the ask. That has not been made available to date,” Cuttell said in the release.
Under the Municipal Elections Act, a judge asked to perform a recount can dismiss an application if it’s “frivolous or vexatious.” That hasn’t happened in this case, and there have been recounts in recent races with wider gaps between first and second finishers.
In 2016, for example, there was a recount of the race in District 9, where Coun. Shawn Cleary won by more than 100 votes.
The Municipal Elections Act says that after a recount “the clerk shall, at the first regular or special meeting of the council after the recapitulation sheet has been received from the judge, declare elected the candidate, or candidates if more than one, having the largest number of votes according to the recapitulation sheet, with the term of office of each candidate.”
If the recount determines there’s a tie, that means “determining the successful candidate by placing the names of the candidates on equal size pieces of paper placed in a box and one name being drawn by a person chosen by the clerk.”
*Update — Thursday, Oct. 29: This article has been updated to clarify the process happening on Monday.
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