Alleged vote buying in Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby under investigation
Published Friday, October 12, 2018 12:04PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, October 12, 2018 7:37PM PDT
Authorities in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond are investigating allegations of vote buying on social media ahead of next week's civic elections.
In a statement released Friday, officials in Vancouver said they are "aware of messages circulating on WeChat from the Canada Wenzhou Friendship Society that appear to offer money in exchange for voting" in each of the three cities.
Mounties in Richmond said in a separate release they're looking into the same app after concerns of "possible voter manipulation" were brought forward by the city's chief electoral officer.
The messages, CTV News has learned, were sent to local Mandarin speakers offering them a $20 "travel allowance" in exchange for voting for certain candidates.
The Canada Wenzhou Friendship Society wouldn't answer any of CTV's questions regarding the allegations Friday.
Authorities have provided few other details about the allegations and haven't said how many voters might be affected.
“The Richmond RCMP Serious Crimes Unit (SCU) launched an investigation after being contacted late yesterday afternoon,” Cpl. Dennis Hwang. “We are asking that if you (have) been approached with possible enticements pertaining to any portion of the voting process, please report it to us directly."
The Vancouver Police Department is conducting its own investigation.
Authorities in Burnaby have not yet made an announcement about the case.
And with just eight days left until Metro Vancouverites head to the polls, experts say the allegation can seriously undermine faith in the results even if only a small number of voters were affected by the alleged actions.
"It's critical to maintain that trust and that's why it's important even minor issues are taken seriously as significant criminal offences," said Max Cameron, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia.
"There may be other examples of voter fraud we don't know about and that's the problem: as soon as something like this is uncovered, it raises doubts in people's minds with respect to the process."
Under the Vancouver Charter, it is illegal to offer money or any other reward in exchange for a vote. Doing so can carry a penalty of up to $10,000 or up to two years in prison.
The news comes the same day Mounties in Surrey confirmed that dozens of mail-in voting applications filed ahead of Oct. 20 were fraudulent.
Anyone with information that could help investigators is asked to contact Cpl. W. Howard at 604-278-1212 or by emailing Richmond_Tips@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
Those in Vancouver can contact local police at 604-717-3321.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Penny Daflos