Alberta's embattled Liberal party choses a new boss Saturday following a leadership campaign that has galvanized the membership and acrimoniously divided the candidates.

About 30,000 voters are casting ballots by phone, online or in person to pick a replacement for David Swann.

The party has opened voting not just to paid party members but also to anyone who wanted to sign up for free as a "supporter." It was reported that some of the voters included deceased people and pets but officials said those problems have been solved as all voters must ultimately be on the provincial list of electors.

Some voters had to be added to the rolls this week, including 100 for perceived front-runner candidate Raj Sherman.

Five candidates

That decision angered rivals Hugh MacDonald and Bill Harvey. Sherman's two main rivals are considered to MacDonald and fellow Edmonton Liberal Laurie Blakeman.

Both are four-time members of the legislature known for their hard work and sharp and informed criticism of government. Harvey, a Calgary businessman and Bruce Payne, a southern Alberta pastor and union leader, are considered long shots.


Former Tory Raj Sherman joined the Liberal Party of Alberta last March. ((CBC))

Sherman, a former Progressive Conservative legislature member, has signed up over half the 30,000 party voters, mainly through extensive community connections and a rapacious demon-dialler phone fanout.

The 45-year-old emergency room doctor was kicked out of the Tory caucus for publicly criticizing Premier Ed Stelmach and the cabinet for failing to come through on promises to reduce long wait lists and other health reforms.

Although the Liberals captured 26 per cent of the vote in the last election, the caucus was sliced in half to eight. Recent polls suggest the party is dropping even further as it loses ground to the NDP and the upstart centrist Alberta Party.