PC voter registration deadline extended amid complaints

Ontario's Progressive Conservative party is extending the voter registration deadline for the leadership race amid complaints that the system is plagued with troubles

Late registration cards, fraud concerns and more plague the party's sign-up process

The candidates battling to lead the Ontario PC party are, from left: Christine Elliott, Tanya Granic Allen, Doug Ford and Caroline Mulroney. (The Canadian Press/Drafttanya.com)
Ontario's Progressive Conservative party is extending the voter registration deadline for the leadership race amid complaints that the system is plagued with troubles.

Members who wish to cast a vote originally had until March 2 to register, but the party now says it has extended the deadline to 11:59 p.m. on March 5, as many say they have yet to receive their registration code in the mail.

Hartley Lefton, chair of the PC's leadership committee, says the deadline extension is simply a way to adapt to growing pains from a new system. 

"In discussions with campaigns, with riding presidents, with candidates and caucus, we always advised that there was a strong likelihood that March 2 would be moved once we got comfortable with the verification process," he told CBC News in an email. 

"As this is a new process, we did not know how long it would take to process verifications."

But at least one candidate's campaign has voiced their frustration with the system.

"They forgot to mail out the forms in the 416; our strongest area. A lot of GTA people have not received their forms yet and we heard the same thing yesterday in Huntsville," Lyndsay Vanstone, Doug Ford's campaign spokesperson, told CBC News. 

The campaign is hosting 'PIN parties'  to help voters sign-up, one of which was interrupted this weekend in Scarborough as the system crashed during the event, Vanstone said. 

The teams working with the other candidates — Caroline Mulroney, Tanya Granic Allen and Christine Elliot's — are also hosting registration clinics across the province.

"A lot of people have questions," said Mike Patton, spokesperson for Tanya Granic Allen's campaign. "This is a different process than anybody's really done before."

Meanwhile, Elliot's campaign say they are particularly focused their help their older members navigate the voting process, as they may not have email accounts, smart phones or computers — all required to vote in this race.

Registered party members need to enter a verification code, which they will receive by mail, on a page on the party's website. They will then be directed to a page to review and verify their personal information, including email addresses where their ballots will be mailed once voting begins. Finally, members will be asked to upload a piece of ID. 

A section of Tanya Granic Allen's website is dedicated to helping voters sign up with step-by-step instructions. 

Fraud Concerns

On Wednesday, Ford's team raised even more concerns, this time over what they describe as the "large-scale use of 'prepaid' credit cards to pay for new memberships," which they say is a "clear violation of the membership rules."

"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." reads a letter from Ford's campaign to PC executives. 

The letter asks that "all currently active memberships that were paid for with prepaid credit cards be removed from the list of eligible voters for the purposes of the leadership vote."

Caroline Mulroney echoed Ford's concerns in 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," she wrote. 

PC members will vote online, on ranked ballots, between March 2 and 8, with the winner being announced March 10.