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NDP, Zarrillo granted vote recount in Port Moody-Coquitlam

NDP's Bonita Zarrillo was defeated by Conservative Nelly Shin by 153 votes, the tightest race in the 2019 federal election

The New Democratic Party has been granted a recount in the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam only a few days after final tallies cemented the riding’s place as the closest race in the country in the Oct. 21 federal election.

“This is really just about people and respecting the will of the people. People were reaching out to me and they were alarmed at the difference between the unofficial and official results and people are asking me for due diligence,” NDP candidate Bonita Zarrillo told The Tri-City News.

On election night, Conservative candidate Nelly Shin won the riding by by 353 votes over Zarrillo, a slim margin made decidedly skinny after an electoral officer officially validated the results, cutting her lead to 153 votes Oct. 25.

“It’s a dramatic margin. It changed by more than half,” said Zarrillo, who said she was the only candidate to attend a validation meeting last Thursday at the riding’s Elections Canada office off Austin Avenue in Coquitlam.

“They rejected a significant amount of ballots. I think the community deserves another look at that,” added the Coquitlam city councillor after the request for a recount was granted by a judge in New Westminster Tuesday afternoon.

While Shin's 153-vote margin did not reach the 0.01% threshold that would automatically trigger a recount, under Election Canada’s rules, a candidate or voters can file an affidavit before a federal judge asking for a formal recount within four days of validation of the results. The judge can grant a recount if ballots were incorrectly counted or rejected, or if there was an error made on the official Statement of Vote, according to the Canada Election Act. 

The recount will happen in the next week or two and will be done by Elections Canada.

After an electoral officer validated the final vote count last week, Shin's total rose by 267 votes while Zarrillo's jumped by 447 and Liberal Sarah Badiei's went up by 286.

Of the riding’s 82,048 eligible voters, 54,519, or about 66%, turned up to the polls. Elections Canada rejected 516 ballots.

Port Moody-Coquitlam is one of three ridings in Canada where tight races have led runner-up candidates and their parties to request recounts from Elections Canada. Results from the other two ridings, both in Quebec, are being challenged by the Bloc Quebecois after they were narrowly defeated by Liberal candidates, according to reporting by Radio Canada.

There were several close races across the country, including in the Yukon, which ended up with the same 153-vote margin between winner and runner-up as Port Moody-Coquitlam. But how tight a race is is also a product of the total number of votes cast, and in Port Moody-Coquitlam, where more than twice as many voters cast ballots than Yukon, only 0.28 percentage points separate Shin and Zarrillo. making it the tightest race in the country.

In the neighbouring riding of Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, validation of the final results also shifted the margin of victory, although incumbent Liberal MP Ron McKinnon’s lead got wider, if only slightly, from an initial 339 votes to 390 votes.

Still, that puts McKinnon’s win into sixth closest race in the country based on the percentage of voters.

McKinnon picked up an extra 564 votes post-revision while the total of his closest challenger, Conservative Nicholas Insley, grew by 513 votes; the NDP's Christina Gower, who placed third, had her total jump by 310 votes.

In Coquitlam-PoCo riding, 63% of voters turned out to the polls and 314 ballots were rejected.

Among the 10 tightest races in the country, six of them were between Grit and Tory candidates.

The 10 closest races in the 2019 federal election
The 10 closest races in the 2019 federal election - Gary McKenna