Mayoral candidate takes online poll seriously

Concern raised about using online straw poll to skew the results, influence voters on election day

The election campaign for the mayor’s chair in Qualicum Beach heated up this week with allegations of possible skewing of The News’ online poll.

In an email obtained by The News Monday, mayoral candidate Mike Wansink urged supporters to make a point of voting for him in the online poll, which asks which of the two candidates would make a better mayor for the town.

However, in the email, Wansink also suggested his supporters could use multiple addresses to vote from and to encourage people from outside the town boundaries to vote in the poll.

“It is acknowledged that polls are not the same as the actual vote, it may be meaningful to have greater numbers showing in our favour because people naturally like to back a winner,” Wansink said in the email. “The application only allows one vote per URL, but if you have more than one URL, I must assume that you can make as many as the URLs you have. Secondly, it is not restricted to the residents of QB, so those of you who live outside the town limits and all the friends that you can convince to also take part in the poll will have an impact as well.”

A second email, sent five hours later, clarified his first remark, stressing that he only wants one person per vote.

“My intent was that if you supported a candidate named in the poll and there was more than one potential responder to the poll in the household, the second responder would need to use a different URL,” he said.

“It was not intended to skew the result of the poll since it is more important that it reflects a valid aggregation of the responses to the question.”

Contacted by The News, Wansink said he made a point of clarifying his earlier remarks in order to make sure the poll was not skewed.

However, he said he had no problem with the request to encourage people living outside Qualicum Beach to respond to the poll.

“This is an online poll and the question was simple as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “It’s not restricted to Qualicum Beach. If it was restricted to the boundaries inside Qualicum Beach it would have been different.”

Wansink’s rival, incumbent Teunis Westbroek, said he was approached with the e-mail by a concerned resident on Saturday and he urged him to pass it on to The News.

“I thought the best thing I could do is stay out of it and have them forward it to the editor,” he said. “Not everyone would agree when you do a poll like this, to suggest that people who don’t even live here (take part).”

Westbroek said there’s no way to know if some of the votes aren’t coming from as far away as Vancouver.

“We don’t know what age they are, and I don’t know if they would be eligible to vote,” he said. “It’s not a good approach to encourage people to skew the vote. It’s not something I would want to be involved in or remotely involved in.

“For someone who went to Palestine to monitor elections and make sure the ballot boxes weren’t stuffed, this seems highly ir

 

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