Edmonton

'No evidence' of voter fraud in UCP race after Jean, Schweitzer request hiatus

Alberta's United Conservative Party will not suspend voting in its leadership race after two of the three candidates expressed fears of voter fraud.

'We have asked the campaigns to provide evidence to back up their allegations and have received none'

Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer, and Brian Jean ran for the UCP leadership in 2017 (CBC)

Alberta's United Conservative Party will not suspend voting in its leadership race after two of the three candidates expressed fears of voter fraud.

With Saturday's voting deadline looming, both Brian Jean and Doug Schweitzer requested Thursday night that polling be put on hold just hours after members began casting their ballots.

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, UCP's leadership election committee said it found no evidence of security breaches.

"We have asked the campaigns to provide evidence to back up their allegations and have received none," said chair Robyn Henwood in an emailed statement. 

No evidence of fraud

"To be diligent, we have also undertaken a double check on the process and have found no evidence of fraud. As a committee, we have been very diligent to ensure a sound and reliable process."

Henwood said security features such as IP address tracking and an audit have ensured voter security throughout the vote. 

"To date, more than 65 per cent of registered members have voted and we have heard from very few with PIN issues," she said.

The dual complaints from Jean and Schweitzer were submitted by email around 11 p.m. Thursday night, Henwood said in an interview with CBC News early Friday morning. 

"I got an email from the two campaigns asking us to put a stop to the vote because they were concerned about voter fraud," Henwood said.

"Of course, we followed up with our service providers, as we have been doing all day long, since voting opened," she said. "There were absolutely no red flags at all. 

"And the campaigns themselves haven't actually offered us any evidence yet. They're just concerned that there could be voter fraud — not that there actually is."

PIN security concerns

Both candidates said they were wary about voter security because of concerns with personal identification numbers, said Henwood. 

The only people who could possibly do this would be the campaigns themselves.  I do not doubt their integrity at all.-  Robyn Henwood , chair of the UCP leadership election committee

The candidates are worried people could vote without being eligible members, but there are safety features in place to guarantee the security of PINs, she said. 

"The chances of voter fraud are so small, the chances that someone would get somebody else's PIN is nearly impossible. 

"The only people who could possibly do this would be the campaigns themselves and we know these leadership candidates. I do not doubt their integrity at all.

"There is absolutely no way they would commit voter fraud, so I have no concerns at all."  

The party remains confident in the process, said Janice Harrington, the party's executive director. 

Harrington said their processes are being reviewed by an auditor. The party executive and their voting officials will meet Friday morning to discuss "next steps," she said.

"We have been, from an operational perspective, reviewing the entire process," Harrington said.

Three candidates — Brian Jean, Doug Schweitzer and Jason Kenney — are all vying for the leadership of the newly-minted party which was created by the merger of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and the Wildrose Party earlier this year.

Kenney's campaign has not been involved in the voting complaints, but he did voice concerns about the process hours before any complaints were filed.

Kenney told reporters during a Calgary town hall on Thursday that many UCP members did not receive their PINs as requested, and a help line for voters was "jammed up" with calls that morning. 

"This is not the system I would have chosen," Kenney said. "The complex, multi-step process to register people online with photo ID has created challenges for a lot of folks that I think is regrettable. 

According to the UCP website, registered members who did not receive PIN information as requested can call 1-844-207-1543 to register over the phone. PINs can be used to vote either online or by phone.

Harrington said the plan is to announce the winner at a live event in Calgary between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m. Saturday.