Canada's Condominium Magazine
Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party has again extended the deadline to register and vote for the party’s new leader, a move that is undoubtedly intended to appease voters and ward off criticism over the system put in place to help select a new leader following the resignation of former leader Patrick Brown amid recent allegations.
The four remaining candidates include former provincial legislator Christine Elliott, former Toronto city councilor Doug Ford, Toronto lawyer and business woman Caroline Mulroney, and social conservative advocate Tanya Granic Allen.
The candidates criticized the complexity of the voting system, which included a two-step process to verify the identity of voters by requiring party members to submit photo ID, after which they would receive a special code in the mail. Once the voter enters the code on the party’s website, they will be directed to a new page, where they will be prompted to complete the process by verifying their personal information. The ballots would then be sent to the email address on file once voting began.
“A lot of people have questions,” said Allen campaign spokesperson Mike Patton. “This is a different process than anybody’s really done before.” Amongst the concerns was the inability of older members to participate due to a lack of email accounts, smart phones, or computers, all of which are required to vote in this race. The Elliott campaign announced that their primary focus was assisting these members in the voting process.
Particularly troubling, however, was the discovery that scores of members were reportedly still awaiting the document when the voting period began. According to Ford campaign press secretary Lyndsey Vanstone, the issue is highly worrisome for members, many of whom have contacted officials to voice their concerns. “We have thousands of voicemails and thousands of emails from people who are complaining that they haven’t received their codes. We can’t keep up.”
The Mulroney campaign surveyed supporters to determine how many of them still had not received their registration packets. “We are very concerned about the ability of all members to vote in this election,” said Mulroney spokesperson Melissa Lantsman. “Right now, we do not have firm numbers, but anecdotally we know verification levels are low.” The same held true for the Elliott campaign and its supporters as well.
“We’re urging the party to make sure that people get their PINs so that they can vote because it’s important that everyone, all members, have a chance to vote in this leadership,” said Mulroney at a Toronto event on Friday. “I am concerned about it.”
Leadership organizing committee chair Hartley Lefton addressed these concerns, stating, “We’re working hard to make sure everyone gets their verification codes by Monday. We’ve been very pleased by the tens of thousands of people who’ve been verified and who will vote to choose our new leader.”
Additional concerns arose over the validity of the voting process, as members worried that fraudulent use of prepaid credit cards had occurred. Candidates argued that payments made through such methods cannot be tracked, thereby rendering it impossible to validate the membership of a person casting a ballot.
A recent letter from the Ford campaign to PC executives read in part: “Prepaid credit cards have long been associated with the practice of signing up fake members, and as a part of a larger effort to commit voter fraud.” The letter also requested that voters whose memberships were purchased with prepaid credit cards have their names removed from the list of eligible voters.
Mulroney relayed similar fears via an email. “I remain concerned about the potential for fraudulent memberships. The party has already removed almost 500 ‘highly suspicious’ members from the list, and I believe they should continue to investigate individual suspicious cases.”
Lefton announced that the party was aware of these concerns as well and that they were working to resolve the issue. Previously, the registration deadline was set for March 2nd, but that deadline was pushed back to March 5th and then 8:00 p.m. on March 7th to allow for more time due to the new voting requirements. The deadline for casting a ballot is now noon on March 9th.
Registration changes and deadline extensions have done little to alleviate mounting fears, however, especially as the date set for announcing the new leader has remained unchanged, giving the party only one day to collect, count, and record the votes and make the announcement on March 10th, which is a large task considering the complexity of the voting process.
The leadership will be determined through a ranked ballot, allowing voters to cast a ballot in favour of their preferred candidates. Voters will also be permitted to select their second, third, and fourth choices. Party members each account for a single vote, which is then converted into electoral votes with a maximum of 100 electoral votes per riding. These 100 electoral votes are allocated to each candidate in proportion to the number of votes they received in that riding.
The winner is then selected based on the candidate who receives more than half the total electoral votes. If none have received 50 per cent or more of the votes, then the candidate receiving the fewest votes or the candidate(s) receiving fewer than 10 per cent of the votes will be eliminated. The remaining candidates will share those votes in relation to their standing as the voters’ second choices. The process then continues if necessary until a winner emerges.
Although the process is a bit overwhelming and complex at first glance, it is not without its merits. The goal is to offer candidates broad-based support across the province, while eliminating the chance of a candidate winning by signing up large numbers of members within a few populous ridings.