Township staff scrambling to issue correct ballots after MPAC mix-up

Centre Wellington election staff are scrambling to correct an MPAC mix-up that resulted in incorrect municipal election ballots being sent out to roughly 480 people.

A letter distributed by municipal clerk Kerri O’Kane states that electors residing within the area of the township between Highway 6 north/David Street and Jones Baseline/Gartshore Street as well as several streets within Fergus may have received incorrect ballots.

Those within those areas should have received ballots for “Municipal Ward 5” and “County Ward 5.”

O’Kane explained that in 2009, the municipal ward boundaries were changed, but county council ward boundaries were not required to be realigned to match.

When elector data was received from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) to formulate the 2014 voters’ list, the elector data within that area was overwritten with incorrect data, resulting in the distribution of incorrect ballots.

O’Kane said she wants to assure residents the municipality is taking steps to collect incorrect ballots already cast and issue new ballots to those in the affected area.

She asked any residents receiving incorrect ballots to destroy them immediately.

In the letter sent to local electors O’Kane offered “sincere apologies for the error” and added, “I appreciate your patience as we work to rectify this situation.”

In an interview on Oct. 6 O’Kane explained the ward boundaries were changed (affecting township Wards 3 and 5) due to a petition, “But the county was not obligated to change its boundaries.”

Such a move would have affected Wellington County Wards 4 and 5.

While county Ward 5 is entirely within Centre Wellington, county Ward 4 is split between Centre Wellington and Wellington North.

O’Kane explained the result created a strip of land where people are now in township Ward 5 and county Ward 5 instead of township ward 5 and county Ward 4. She added the stretch of land is identified as Centre Wellington Ward 5.

“We had to have an identification to distinguish those electors from those in the rest of local Ward 5 because they are voting for a different county ward representative,” she said.

She noted the work done to rectify these wards was done in 2010 for that election.

However MPAC did not recognize that area as being special and overwrote all the previously-collected data.

As a result, some people received the wrong ballots – but some didn’t.

She said if people think their ballots are incorrect, they should contact the municipal office immediately and staff will be able to tell them whether they have the right ballot or not.

O’Kane said letters were sent out to households known to be affected that included a map of the area impacted.

“There’s lots of time to deal with this,” she added.

Residents will be mailed new ballots, O’Kane explained.

If people have already voted, the township computers will alert staff to the error and it will be placed aside until the replacement ballot is sent in.

If the wrong ballot is the only one submitted, the ballot will not count, O’Kane said.

In addition to letters being distributed, she noted candidates have also been made aware of the issue.

She noted the majority of the residents affected are in the northern part of Fergus between David Street and Gartshore Streets, north of Forfar Street.