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Prosperity Mine supporters 'cheated' on online poll: activist

Supporters of the Tsilhqot'in National Government say their opponents hijacked an online Globe and Mail poll last week about a mine proposal near Williams Lake.

“It appears someone hacked the system to dump thousands of votes in at a time,” wrote Susan Smitten a filmmaker and executive director of the group Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs in an email to supporters.

She asked the Globe to investigate what she said appears to be cheating. “The reliability of Globe and Mail polls, and your reputation for fairness stand to be tarnished significantly otherwise,” she wrote.

The voting pattern for the 'yes' side was too regular to be random and appears to have been done by a bot or other software program, she said. “On Friday night [to] early Saturday morning, over the space of perhaps four hours and at what appeared to be a uniform rate per minute of votes, the Yes side . . . managed [to] rack up more than 3,000 votes.”

That was half as many as they'd received in the previous 70 hours, she said.

“They suddenly went from being behind by 1,000 votes and a margin of 54 percent for the No side, to being up 1,500 votes and leading by 55 percent to 45 percent,” she said. “It is extremely difficult to believe that over the witching hours of a Friday night, more than 3,000 people suddenly decided to take turns at a steady uniform rate to cast single ballots for the Yes side.”

Two days later another 3,000 votes were added in a hurry to the 'yes' side's tally, she said. “These two surges compare with a total of less than 300 votes that were cast in the intervening 40 plus hours.”

She concluded, “clearly someone is manipulating the poll.”

“To allow these votes to stand would be to demonstrate that the Globe's online polls, which are fun and provide a chance for people to express their opinions and get involved, are not worth participating in,” she said.

A message to the Globe and Mail's department responsible for online polls was not immediately answered.

Taseko Mines Ltd. has proposed building Prosperity Mine near Williams Lake, a plan that would destroy Tetzan Biny, or Fish Lake. The TNG opposes the project, which has received provincial approval and awaits a decision by the federal cabinet following a negative environmental review.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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