A Surrey anti-crime group has filed complaints of an alleged election-fraud scheme targeting South Asian voters in the city which sought to increase the number of absentee ballots cast this election more than 30-fold.
In letters addressed to the Surrey RCMP and to Elections B.C., Wake Up Surrey alleges there has been a “well-coordinated election fraud scheme underway within the South Asian community” ahead of the Oct. 20 municipal elections.
The groups claims that absentee ballots are being fraudulently used and votes are being bought.
Wake Up Surrey believes that one or more political parties are behind the scheme, which involves requesting absentee ballots for voters and casting them without their knowledge, or obtaining absentee ballots from voters and either filling them in for them and forging their signatures, or telling them how to vote.
The group claims the political party (or parties) orchestrating the scheme are also paying voters to cast a vote for a specific candidate.
Sukhi Sandhu, an organizer with Wake Up Surrey, said his group was informed of the scheme by people who had been told by employers and business owners to each collect detailed personal information from 25 people in order to obtain their mail-in ballots.
Sandhu said 600 “poll captains” were asked to make the lists of 25 voters, so that an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 mail-in ballots could be cast for a single candidate, he added.
It would be a drastic increase over the number of mail-in ballots usually cast.
In order to vote by mail, a Surrey resident has to complete an application (available online) and mail, fax or deliver it in person to city hall.
They must make a declaration they have a physical disability, illness or injury that affects their ability to vote, or expect to be absent from Surrey on Oct. 20 and during advance voting. Their ballot is then mailed to them or they can pick it up at city hall.
Voter data from the 2014 municipal election shows that just 459 special-voting (mail-in) ballots were cast. It is unclear how many of the ballots have been requested to date.
Spokesman Oliver Lum said the City of Surrey is aware of the allegations and its chief electoral officer will be commenting further on Monday.
Sandhu said some of the people who were approached about casting absentee ballots will be filing complaints with police in the coming days. A Surrey RCMP spokesman not briefed on details of the allegations couldn’t confirm before deadline Saturday whether an investigation had been launched, but Global News and News 1130 reported the detachment has opened a case.
Sandhu said Wake Up Surrey has identified at least one political campaign linked to the scheme but said he would leave it to the RCMP to confirm that campaign’s identity. His group is not endorsing any candidate or party in the election, he said.
“Immediately when it came to our attention, we looked at the evidence and found that it was credible,” Sandhu said. “We felt a moral duty as Canadian citizens to phone the police and the chief electoral officer.”
Sandhu said his group and South Asian media have been intimidated and slandered by powerful groups who oppose their calls to expose and fight corruption, and said some are motivated by financial reasons to influence the election.
“This is not only voter suppression but it is also disrespecting voters in our community, thinking of them as illiterate,” he said.
Sandhu is a well-connected businessman and longtime community activist in Surrey regarded as a backroom player by politicians hoping to get support among South Asian voters. He worked on Dianne Watts’s recent bid for the B.C. Liberals leadership but left her campaign after he claimed she was not connecting with B.C.’s South Asian community.
Four parties running candidates in Surrey have issued news releases condemning the alleged voter fraud and supporting Wake Up Surrey’s effort to expose it, including Safe Surrey Coalition, Integrity Now, People First and Proudly Surrey.
But People First also criticized Wake Up Surrey’s release of the allegations to media, which the party believes will “help the culprits to hide their tracks,” and which “casts a shadow of doubt and shame on the South Asian community,” its news release said.
Proudly Surrey candidate Pauline Greaves is calling for an immediate suspension of all mail-in voting.
— With files from Mike Smyth
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