A city council candidate made a rookie mistake by tweeting a picture of his ballot at the advance poll on Saturday.
Jonathan Wieler, 28, tweeted “#RedDeer Election Ballot. Vote Wieler 5th up from the bottom!” and attached a photo of his marked ballot on Saturday afternoon.
A few hours later, city returning officer Frieda McDougall caught wind of the tweet. She left a message on Wieler’s voicemail asking him to take down the tweet, which he did.
In a prepared statement, Wieler said Thursday, “The other day in an enthusiastic effort to communicate my candidacy for city council, I tweeted a picture and I truly regret doing so. I intended to exercise my freedom of speech. I intended my actions to be no different than putting up signs or handing out pamphlets. I respect the rules that are in place to ensure the democratic process is fair.”
“Shortly afterwards I took the picture down and sought legal counsel. I have been informed by legal counsel that since my intent was not to replicate a ballot, trick people or in any way commit election fraud I am innocent of any wrongdoing.”
Wieler said he hopes “his honesty in this matter is an indication of his personal virtue.”
Under the Local Authorities Election Act, no person shall print or distribute or cause to be printed or distributed in any advertisement, handbill, placard, poster, a form of ballot printed by the returning officer, indicating or showing it to be marked for any candidate or candidates.
If a person was found to have contravened the act, he or she could net a fine of not more than $10,000 or six months in jail.
McDougall said it is her job to protect the integrity of the election. McDougall said she asked the candidate to take down the tweet because it raised questions about the election process.
In Nova Scotia, three people are facing charges under the Elections Act for allegedly taking pictures at the ballot box. McDougall said the Nova Scotia legislation clearly says one cannot take a recording device into a voting station.
She said there’s an opportunity to revisit it again in light of the new digital age.
“If in fact things like this are not the intent of what they want the legislation to say then we need some clarity on it,” said McDougall.