October 25, 2012 / 2:18 PM / 5 years ago

CORRECTED-Canada top court rejects bid to overturn constituency election

(Corrects 2nd paragraph to say 52,794 voted in the district, not that they voted for the Conservative candidate)

* Liberal had challenged victory by Conservative candidate

* Conservative won constituency by 26 votes

* Election officials made errors; no fraud alleged

* Conservative government retains substantial majority

OTTAWA, Oct 25 (Reuters) - The Supreme Court of Canada upheld on Thursday the election of a Conservative member of Parliament whose narrow victory was challenged by his Liberal opponent on the grounds that election officials had mistakenly allowed some people to vote.

The court ruled that administrative errors by Elections Canada officials should not disenfranchise the 52,794 citizens who voted i n a west-end Toronto electoral district in the 2011 general election. Conservative candidate Ted Opitz won the constituency by 26 votes.

“It should be remembered that annulling an election would disenfranchise not only those persons whose votes were disqualified, but every elector who voted in the riding,” the court said in its 4-3 decision.

There was no allegation of fraud or corruption, but Liberal challenger Boris Wrzesnewskyj had said there were enough irregularities that the result in the district should be overturned. An Ontario court had agreed with him and had handed him the victory, but the Supreme Court of Canada overturned that ruling on Thursday.

Wrzesnewskyj had pointed out that, for example, some voter registration certificates were missing, but the court ruled that there was no direct evidence that anybody who was not entitled to vote ended up voting.

“The practical realities of election administration are such that imperfections in the conduct of elections are inevitable,” Marshall Rothstein and Michael Moldaver wrote for the majority.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin led a dissent that emphasized the importance of elections officials following all procedures carefully.

“They are fundamental safeguards for the integrity of the electoral system,” she wrote.

Led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservatives were re-elected in May 2011 with a majority of seats in the House of Commons. Including Opitz’s seat, they currently have 163 of the 308 seats in the House. The Liberals have 35.

The 2011 election results in seven other voting districts are being challenged separately in a lower court on the grounds that the Conservatives made misleading phone calls to voters. (Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway and Vicki Allen)

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