Bribery, intimidation and voting fraud alleged in Surrey election
A sophisticated criminal scheme aimed at swaying 10 to 15 thousand votes in Surrey's municipal election has been alleged in a report to the RCMP and Elections BC.
A community group Wake Up Surrey filed the complaint on Friday.
"This is a mass operation to influence the City of Surrey election and undermine our democratic process,” said Sukhi Sandu, a volunteer with the group on the weekend.
Wake Up Surrey's report alleges that voters, mainly in the South Asian community, have been coming forward with numerous complaints since the summer about being pressured and intimidated into obtaining their mail-in ballots and voting for certain candidates.
“The voters were assured, ’Don’t worry about your vote, we’ll take care of that for you.’ A lot of these voters were naïve people,” said Sandu.
He added, the “well-coordinated election fraud scheme” involves 600 so-called “pole captains” each tasked with gaining control over 25 absentee mail-in voter ballots. Sandhu says that means between 10,000 to 15,000 mail-in ballots have been targeted for manipulation, when in the last election of 2014, only 500 absentee ballots were cast.
The report alleges some ballots were obtained by forging voters’ signatures, or were cast for candidates “without the knowledge of the actual voter.”
Some voters also reported being offered bribes to vote for a particular candidate, much like what goes on in South Asia, he said.
“It’s come to our knowledge, the purchasing of votes [in Surrey] for $300 to $400 a vote was occurring particularly in the construction industry.”
“In India and Punjab, it’s common practice… votes are bought for money or liquor.”
“We believe that each campaign should condemn this,” he said.
As to which campaign stood to benefit from the scheme, Sandu replied, “I’m not going there,” but he alleged developers on large construction projects may be involved.
CTV News requested comment from all eight candidates for Surrey mayor. As of Saturday evening, seven have responded, disavowing the scheme: Pauline Greaves, Rajesh Jayaprakash, Tom Gill, Doug McCallum, Bruce Hayne, Imtiaz Popat and John Wolanski.
“The people of Surrey must not have this election stolen from them,” wrote Proudly Surrey mayoral candidate Pauline Greaves in a statement Saturday. “I am calling for the immediate suspension of all mail-in balloting.”
“We have over a billion dollars in transportation funding at issue in this election, and we must not have that stolen for the benefit of a few,” she also stated.
Mayoral candidate Rajesh Jayaprakash condemned the scheme, but said he wished the complaint had not been made public so the police could have conducted their investigation in secret to determine if actual wrong doing took place.
Imtiaz Popat is also running for the city's top job and said, “It’s very disturbing. One of the reasons I’m runining for mayor is because there’s been a history of corruption in Surrey."
“There have been other such voter fraud schmes in the past. It’s a really messy situation. Voters have a right to know before the election who is involved in this voter fraud,” said Popat.
None of the Wake Up Surrey's allegations have been proven in court.
Surrey’s municipal election is Oct. 20.