An upcoming leadership vote for the NDP in Saskatchewan has attracted thousands to the party.

The deadline for holding a membership and being eligible to vote for a new leader was Friday.

According to the party 11,160 people have signed on.

That is up from around 8,000 prior to the leadership contest, which formally began last fall.

The NDP's president in Saskatchewan, Cory Oxelgren, said leadership debates around the province have contributed to getting people interested in the party.

"There's an excitement in the crowd," Oxelgren said Tuesday. "People who have not been members for years have been coming to renew and get involved again and they're excited about where the party's going."

The party is holding 14 such debates across the province before ballots are cast. The final one is scheduled for Feb. 16 in Saskatoon.

Oxelgren said interest in the party has been fairly widespread.

"We were concerned that we wouldn't be able to do that," he said, 'but we actually did very well and got memberships from all over the province, everywhere. It's not concentrated in any particular area."

Party members will choose a new leader from a field of four candidates.

The vote, on March 9, is to replace former leader Dwain Lingenfelter, who resigned when he lost his seat in the 2011 provincial election.

John Nilson has been the interim leader, but is not seeking the top job.

The four candidates are MLAs Trent Wotherspoon and Cam Broten, Saskatoon doctor Ryan Meili and economist Erin Weir.

In the 2009 leadership race that Lingenfelter won, an NDP volunteer was charged after the RCMP received a complaint that some membership applications paid for by Lingenfelter were forged.

Ernest Morin pleaded guilty to attempting to utter forged documents and was fined $3,000.

A report commissioned by the NDP said Lingenfelter's campaign did not direct or condone the activity.

With files from CBC's Stefani Langenegger and The Canadian Press