At our regular Tuesday Zoom meeting December 12, 2023, MST recived an update report from Mr. Kevin Friesen who is the leader of the Keystone Party of Manitoba and a candidate in the October 3, 2023 provincial election. Kevin was unsuccessful in his bid to become the MLA for Turtle Mountain Constitnuency; however, based on his review of the results reported by Elections Manitoba, and his discussions with actual voters, he believed that there were some inconsistancies in the results being reported by Elections Manitoba. The following is an account of the process Kevin went trhough to get a recount and what the results of that recount were:
By Kevin Friesen:
In traveling throughout the Turtle Mountain Constituency during the 2023 Election campaign I noted several common themes no matter which demographic of constituents I was visiting with, VOTER APATHY. After collecting my thoughts each day we visited with people throughout the constituency, I knew that the last thing we want in this province is a loss of faith in Elections Manitoba.
When Elections Manitoba announced that they would be using the tabulating machines in the 2023 election red flags began to wave. Nevertheless, the Keystone party campaign continued, and we promised concerned Manitobans that we would do our best to make sure the democratic process was maintained (note: we were the ONLY party that opposed the voting machines).
Being the 2023 election was Keystone’s first crack at a provincial election, running 5 candidates, we were quite happy at the results for the most part. As October 3rd passed and we started analyzing the results in Turtle Mountain specifically we quickly noticed several anomalies.
Other constituencies noticed things not lining up with their expectations and these anomalies triggered the Keystone party as a whole to ask Elections MB for a recount. It wasn’t long before Elections MB countered our request with the response that recounts were only done in elections where less than 100 votes separated the 1st and 2nd place candidates.
On October 11th, stories began to roll in to our constituency office that there were mistakes made in the “official results” posted in the local papers.
One particular story was a family that had met for thanksgiving had been reminiscing about the election. They had counted more than 8 Keystone votes around the table and yet the paper had published that their town only had 6 Keystone votes.
Another story was a group of 3 people in a different town had taken pictures of their ballots clearly voting for Kevin Friesen, the Keystone candidate and yet the paper had recorded that 0 votes for Keystone in that town had been received.
As these stories came to my attention, I was struggling with the fact that Elections MB had still not notified me by email of the “official results” in my constituency. ALL of my Keystone candidates counterparts in other areas had received these emails and yet I heard nothing.
It was at this time that I began digging a little further into elections for their answers to my questions. At this time they acknowledged some errors but assured me that they were all explainable. I was so relieved….NOT!
After seeking legal counsel, and finally being able to reach the head of the organization, I was finally able to have a phone conversation with the head of Elections Manitoba.
My message to this individual was simple.
I recognized that the election results in Turtle Mountain were not within the range for a recount BUT I had proof that people’s votes had not been counted in the “Official Results”. I made it clear that people were losing faith in our electoral system and that a very simple way to settle the doubt in people’s minds was to simply recount the constituency.
The answer on the phone was a simple NO.
Three hours after this conversation on October 18th, I received this email,
”It has come to our attention that there are a few errors in the official results for Turtle Mountain – we have checked the results and agree that errors were made in the reporting of the votes and found data entry errors affecting approximately 650 votes. The reported plurality here is 2,710 so it would not meet the criteria for a recount. We have decided to do a process audit….”
All 4 parties were notified of the recount on October 19th and we were all allowed to bring as many as 3 scrutineers to oversee the process.
At 10 am on October 19th three of us from the Keystone Party attended the recount in Swan Lake.
Unbeknownst to us, Keystone was the only party that showed up to scrutinize the recount.
Not even the conservative MLA who won the election felt it important to support the electoral process!
Elections Manitoba had brought to the recount 14 individuals who had worked the 2023 election and at around 10:15 am, they began to recount EVERY ballot that had been cast in the Turtle Mountain Constituency.
The staff from head office in Winnipeg guessed that this recount could take more than a day to complete.
At 12 noon, only 3 boxes of ballots remained and the local elections staff decided to work through lunch and finish the process.
That’s right, in less than 3 hours every ballot had been counted!
Results were: Keystone party numbers increased by 11% and all other parties increased by 0-1.2%
Not a change in the elected representative but now the “official results” were official. Every ballot was counted, and the anomalies noted above were satisfied.
So here is some points to takeaway from the recount:
No party except Keystone seems to care
3 hours to count the entire constituency with less than 10% of their staff from election night.
Machine tabulators for the most part seemed to work in this election (not to say that next one could be corrupted)
Local Elections MB staff were faces I knew and recognized (people I would say I trusted)
Keystone is confident that the results now are correct.
I am proud of the fact that we were able to stand up for our friends and neighbors, the constituents of Turtle Mountain. We can honestly tell you that we physically fought to have your vote counted.
This recount taught me that it would be impossible to corrupt 14 vote counters (my neighbors and acquaintances). How much harder would it be to convince 60 or 70 elections staff to throw an election, however it could be very easy to convince one computer programmer.
I thank those who are trying to keep the electoral process in Manitoba transparent and democratic.
I encourage people to join us in fighting against the unnecessary voting machines in counting less that 500,000 votes in our provincial elections.
I know that the Kindergarten classes of Manitoba could count our provincial ballots of less than 500,000 in one short morning. So why do we need corruptible machines? Why would we allow machines to create any doubt in Manitobans. WE DO NOT NEED DOMINION TABULATORS!