Candidate waited months
Deafening silence on election 'investigation;
Five-and-a-half months after the Nunavut territorial election, Iqaluit mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik wants to know why her concerns about possible voting irregularities in Iqaluit West riding have gone unanswered.
Sheutiapik, who lost a closely-fought contest with former Nunavut premier Paul Okalik, lodged a complaint with the RCMP and with Nunavut's chief electoral officer, Sandy Kusugak, on Nov. 3, 2008, one week after the election.
"We are concerned that there have been voting irregularities in the 2008 elections for Iqaluit West constituency… which would call into question the validity of the announced voter outcome," she stated in her letter of complaint.
On March 16, she wrote both Kusugak and the RCMP again, noting that "almost five months has passed with no communication from either of your offices – by phone, email or mail."
She also decided to go public with her concerns, sharing her correspondence with reporters.
"I'm frustrated," Sheutiapik told Nunatsiaq News. "We wrote that letter for reasons. We are not just going to let it die."
She said neither she nor her scrutineers had been contacted by police for follow-up interviews in all that time.
Staff-Sgt. Harold Trupish, in charge of criminal investigations with the Nunavut RCMP, said the investigation is underway, although it has been delayed because the original investigating officer was transferred to another jurisdiction.
Investigators are still waiting for additional information, he said, before proceeding with interviews. He noted that both the chief elections officer and the integrity officer have to be involved in the process.
"We only report once we are finished our investigation," Troopish said.
By press time, Kusugak was unavailable for comment.
Sheutiapik said that if she had only received two short notes, one from Kusugak and one from the RCMP, noting that the complaint had been received and the investigation was underway, she would have been happy to wait for it to run its course.
Sheutiapik said she originally became concerned about irregularities during debriefing meetings with her election team soon after the Oct. 27, 2008, vote.
One of her scrutineers said she had seen her own sister voting in Iqaluit West, even though she lives in Iqaluit Centre.
Another scrutineer told Sheutiapik she had seen a couple voting whom she knew "clearly don't live in Iqaluit West."
Other concerns related to students in the Nunavut Arctic College residence and to people living in Inuksugait Plaza.
According to her best information, Sheutiapik said, about 22 students from the NAC residence voted in Iqaluit West, even though she understands students are supposed to vote in their home constituencies, not the constituency where they temporarily reside as students
The Nunavut Elections Act says students temporarily absent from their home ridings must vote in "the place of the voter's home or dwelling to which the voter intends to return; or the place where the voter's family resides."
And "towards the end of the day," she added, "there were pages and pages of new voters. I think a lot of them came from Inuksugait, but did they truly live here for one year? Were there enough people with knowledge of the Elections Act to police it all?"
Twelve months before election day, only one phase of the three-phase Inuksugait Plaza was fully occupied, and people were just beginning to move into phase two.
Sheutiapik lost the election to Okalik by 44 votes. She received 296 votes to Okalik's 340.
She said she believes if the voting had been conducted properly, she might have won the election.
There is also the possibility, if enough irregularities are confirmed, that the election in Iqaluit West could be overturned.
The hotly contested riding provided by far the most expensive campaigns in Nunavut. According to figures released by Elections Nunavut, Sheutiapik spent over $17,000 on her campaign, and Okalik spent $26,500, nearly $10,000 more.
Only one other candidate, Hunter Tootoo, who won in Iqaluit Centre, spent more than $10,000 total in the election, with most other candidate expenses ranging from mere hundreds of dollars up to five or six thousand.
Sheutiapik said she found the time lag doubly frustrating because during the campaign, when a complaint was lodged about the placement of some of her signs, she and her financial agent were called into the RCMP office right away.
"They even physically went around and counted my signs," she said. "They told me I had 154 signs."
"And here we are, five or six months after my complaint, and nothing."