Essex mayor pleads guilty, fined $ 10,000 in electoral proxy voting case

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Essex City Mayor Larry Snively pleaded guilty in Provincial Offenses Court on Friday to illegally obtaining proxy votes in the 2018 municipal election and was fined $ 10,000.

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“Every vote counts,” Justice of the Peace Susan Hoffman said. “Your actions, in my opinion, Mr. Snively, and the commission of this offense, effectively deprive members of the community of the privilege of voting and of a voice in the government that governs them. “

Snively pleaded guilty in a virtual court appearance to “inciting or inducing a person to vote when he or she was not entitled to do so.”

In a statement released by Essex City officials following the hearing, Deputy Mayor Richard MeIoche noted, “It is disturbing and unfortunate and the council as a whole condemns the actions which led to this offense.”

The municipality indicated that Sn ively intends to remain in her seat for the remainder of the current legislature, but will not run for mayor in October.

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Charged under the Municipal Elections Act in early 2020 by the Ontario Provincial Police, Snively previously resisted calls to resign his seat, but resigned from the local policing board during the police investigation.

In this case, 34 proxy votes cast by individuals in the 2018 municipal elections were at issue. An elector unable to vote in person can appoint someone as a proxy to vote on their behalf.

It requires a form from Elections Ontario declaring the nomination for proxy voting that is completed and signed by the voter. Once the power of attorney is certified, the “designated voter” takes an oath with the election officials attesting to the appointment.

In an agreed statement of facts that served as the basis for Snively’s guilty plea, the Crown and the defense agreed that Snively obtained those votes by having the voter sign the form before an attorney was appointed.

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The case also revealed that the proxies swore before an election clerk that they received instructions from the voter they were voting for, although they were not given instructions on how to vote. Court documents show that in several cases voters said they did not know the people who voted.

“By the time I made these proxies I thought I did them correctly, it was an oversight on my part,” Snively told court on Friday.

“I really didn’t know I was doing anything wrong at the time. Afterwards, I realized I had done it and I sincerely apologize for it.

Court documents show the issue came to light after a local woman went to the polls on October 22, 2018 and attempted to vote, only to be told she had already voted. Election officers and police have been notified.

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The agreed statement of facts includes 34 instances where people voted for others by proxy when they were not entitled to do so. In some cases there was a language barrier or the people were old; they either did not have their power of attorney or they were suffering from dementia when they signed a power of attorney form at Snively’s request.

These are among the aggravating factors that regional Crown Attorney Brian White has called for a hefty fine. Mitigating factors, according to the court, included Snively’s willful guilty plea, which saved the court time thanks to a scheduled trial lasting several months with dozens of witnesses, as well as the stigma and impact on Snively’s political career.

“The Crown is asking for a fine enough heavy to send the message that the Municipal Elections Act is an act to be respected, is an act to be trusted and is an act to help and affirm fair and open elections in our province and our region. municipality ”says Blanc.

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Snively’s attorney, Patrick Ducharme, said that, given his client’s financial situation, a substantial fine would be in the range of $ 7,000 to $ 8,000. He also spoke about Snively’s 12-year career in municipal politics and the margin of victory in the 2018 election.

Snively won mayoralty by 117 votes and “probably” would have won regardless of the proxy votes, Ducharme said.

With a fine of up to $ 25,000 under the Municipal Elections Act, Hoffman chose a number between what the defense suggested and the $ 15,000 the Crown was asking for. Snively has six months to pay his fine of $ 10,000.

Earlier this year, the city approved stricter measures for proxy voting that it says relate to the issuance and certification of proxy voting requests.

ksaylors@postmedia.com

twitter.com/KathleenSaylors

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