By Kaitlyn Mullin/ Spoke News
A discrepancy between the City of Kitchener and a candidate in the upcoming 2018 municipal election has sparked controversy over the use of tax dollars.
The city will spend $20,000 to $25,000 to reprint 19,500 ballots after one candidate’s middle name wasn’t included.
Regan Sunshine Brussé, running for Ward 2 in the Oct. 22 election, had asked the city clerk to include all three of her names.
When her middle name wasn’t included, Brussé notified the city on Thursday, Sept. 27 that she would be pursuing legal action with a court date set for Oct. 3. The city then announced in a news release that they would be reprinting the ballots as to not jeopardize the delivery of a credible election.
Brussé, who uses her unique middle name when campaigning, fears that without it being present on the ballot, it would compromise her votes.
“I always say to people when I’m campaigning or giving a speech, ‘Vote for Sunshine.’ People love it and I know I’m making a connection with them,” Brussé said in a news release.
According to The Municipal Election Act, a candidate is permitted to use another name, however, it is up to the city clerk to decide which name appears on ballots.
Christine Tarling, director of legislative services and current city clerk, told CBC News that the City of Kitchener has never included middle names.
Ester Neufeldt commented in a Facebook post that the clerk’s judgment seemed unfair.
“(It) Seems unfair that a clerk can make that decision and not inform or discuss with the candidate before ballots are printed,” said Neufeldt. “Seems like the clerk’s decision may provide the candidate with free advertising if the candidate decides to make this an issue. Which, in my opinion, she has a right to do.”
Laurel Russwurm also commented in a Facebook post that although expensive, this was an important lesson for the city.
“This was an expensive lesson for the city to learn, but it would have been 10 times worse had one of the mayoral candidates required the ballots to be reprinted,” said Russwurm. “Hopefully, the city will correct the deficiencies in this process. Perhaps in future, they’ll do away with unwritten rules, instead of writing them down in the City of Kitchener’s own ‘Candidate’s Reference Manual.’”
Many think the cost to reprint the ballots and reprogram memory cards and tabulator machines used on election day is a waste of tax dollars.
“Way to go lady. Your vanity just cost taxpayers 25K. This was a ridiculous decision and I’m sure the taxpayers will make you pay for it at the polls. Unbelievable.” said Jonathan Murphy in the comments on an online forum.
Brussé addressed the controversy in an email to CBC K-W.
“I understand this has cost the city and only wish this could have been addressed sooner, to avoid such cost. I have had no control over the cost, nor the initial decision. I have incurred financial costs myself to address this matter,” said Brussé. “The fairness this will allow the voters, through the elimination of any confusion that would have been produced through this discrepancy, has been returned to this election. For this, I am most grateful.”
Whether or not candidates choose to use their middle name on a ballot, there should be a well-outlined protocol for these requests. The decision to use a middle name should not be left to the city clerk’s discrepancy but should be a choice that candidates make on how they would like to represent themselves.
If the city had a definitive ruling on whether or not a name could be used, it would have saved the taxpayers of Kitchener $25,000 of cold, hard cash.