Alberta Politics

Why Accusations of Voter Fraud in the UCP Leadership Race are a Really Big Deal #ableg #abpoli

After the gong-show that UCP nomination races were last year, I wanted the NDP to hold back on the election. I was not the first. After allegations of a “kamikaze candidate” surfaced last December, more and more people are suggesting the same.

Even though the Elections Commissioner has active investigations with regard to Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership candidacy, and has already levied fines against some of those involved, there is the matter of the leadership vote to attend to as well. 

Allegations of voter fraud in the UCP leadership race were first brought up by Prab Gill, former UCP caucus member and MLA for Calgary Greenway. He has also taken his concerns to the RCMP. Happy Mann, disqualified UCP candidate for Calgary-Falconridge, has made similar allegations

I’m not a lawyer and I was confused as to why and how this moves from Elections Alberta to the RCMP so I found a retired criminal lawyer to explain.

First, Elections Alberta has the ability to investigate on their own but they can also refer directly to the RCMP as issues they are sometimes dealing with, like potential fraud, are criminal in nature. While more commonly referred to as “voter fraud” or “identity theft”, the term within the criminal code is personation.

Even if the vote took place within a private club, even if there was no financial gain (and that’s debatable), the law makes reference to two specific actions;

Identity Fraud

403 (1) Everyone commits an offence who fraudulently personates another person, living or dead,

(a) with intent to gain advantage for themselves or another person and;

(c) with intent to cause disadvantage to the person being personated or another person


(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), personating a person includes pretending to be the person or using the person’s identity information — whether by itself or in combination with identity information pertaining to any person — as if it pertains to the person using it.

(emphasis mine)

There are a number of possibilities of how someone’s information could have been used with or without their knowledge. Based on my own experience with political party information (I was VP Membership and Executive liaison with the Leadership Election Committee during the Alberta Party leadership race), there’s an honour system. Let me explain.

During a leadership race, or a nomination race, the goal is to sign up as many members as possible to win. You sign people up with the hope they will vote for you. What this also does, during a leadership or nomination race, is bring in a high volume of new memberships which can take an incredible amount of time to enter into the system if they don’t sign up online. Some situations, like being invited to a community gathering, make more sense to use paper memberships. 

Parties may use software to restrict the number of names that can be added with one email address. In certain cases, an override may be required to use more than one name or more than two etc., it’s the Party’s decision to make.

But the other thing is that volunteers from campaigns can be the ones entering the information and it’s difficult, in high volume additions, to check each one individually. Random checks can be performed but it’s obviously not going to catch everything.

In the case of the UCP, members of both the PC and Wildrose were grandfathered in to the new party. As has been reported, some people had no desire to be involved with the new party. Even if they cancel their membership, their information still exists within the membership database.

Case and point: Sandra Jansen. The former PC MLA who crossed the floor to the NDP in 2016 was, apparently, a member of the UCP. Some will recall the amusement online when she posted a screenshot of the email from UCP President Janice Harrington that informed Ms. Jansen her membership was being revoked.

If someone had access to the membership lists and made those calls, they would discover who was interested (or not) in engaging as a member of the UCP. If one had access to the database, they could potentially make changes to contact information. The person is a member, eligible to vote, all that would have to be done, plausibly, is changing the email address. 

The gentleman I spoke with also said that in any criminal activity there are principle actors, those who actually commit the activity, and parties to the criminal activity. These parties include a person with a common intention of participating in some way.  There are two types of actors in this case: an abettor is someone who does something specific, such as entering fraudulent information into a database, and also a counselor.

A counselor is one who actively encourages the criminal activity or one who turns a blind eye to the activity. Even if it’s a few guys in a room saying “yeah, we should do this in Edmonton for sure” but doesn’t have his hands on the database, for instance, and the one who says “no, we don’t need to do it in Calgary because we’ve got it locked up” and also the one who says “I don’t know if we should do it at all” but doesn’t say anything outside the room.  

So, this is a big deal. The maximum sentence for being found guilty of personation is 10 years imprisonment. Hopefully, the above explains how many people this could affect, if the allegations are proven to be true.

This post contains fact and legal opinion, not advice.

I regret that I did not ask permission to use the gentleman’s name when we spoke as I hadn’t quite formulated the article at that time and was only asking the questions to further my own understanding. 

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean

Tips and suggestions: 

@Mitchell_AB @thisweekinAB


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *