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Technological dilemma

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 18, 2012

A photo of a completed ballot was posted on Facebook during the Gwich'in Tribal Council's advance polls in Fort McPherson on June 11, forcing the chief returning officer to take action.

The photo was taken inside a polling booth and showed the voter's hand and her vote on the ballot.

Barb Crawford, chief returning officer for the Gwich'in Tribal Council, said she contacted the person who posted the photo after the Office of the Chief Returning Officer received two phone calls about the matter.

"It's unacceptable to reproduce ballots in any way," said Crawford. "We're just getting it taken off."

The problem with reproducing a ballot is that it increases the risk of fake ballots, which is why the Gwich'in Tribal Council elections manual prohibits the reproduction of a ballot in any way, she said.

Crawford said as much as social media has helped distribute information about the election to voters, it's also presented new problems the council had not faced during or prior to the last election in 2008.

"The last election that we had there was no Facebook (controversy)," she said.

"It's a new thing and there's not much in our elections procedures manual that covers it but this is part of the recommendations that I would make when I do my report to the assembly to say that we need some parameters around the social media issue."

The ballot had neither been counted nor discarded as of Friday and it isn't likely that a decision will be made on the issue unless the election results come down to one vote, Crawford said. However, she said she will be discussing a procedure for situations like these in the recommendations she presents to the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

For now, voters will now encounter some new restrictions as a result of the incident when they go to vote this Friday.

"We have security personnel at all of our polling stations but one thing that we are looking at now for election day is for people to leave their cellphones at the front," Crawford said.

"We're not going to allow any electronic devices into the polling area."

Crawford said she remains enthusiastic about the success of this election, despite the controversial photo.

"Voter turnout for the advance poll was very high this year," she said.

"It's just amazing how much interest there is. They're really getting out there to vote."

Mail-in ballots are also rushing in daily. Crawford said approximately 50 mail-in ballots are arriving every day and a total of 120 ballots arrived at the Office of the Chief Returning Officer as of June 11.

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