Conservatives face mounting calls for voting probe
Published Monday, June 5, 2017 10:02PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Supporters of failed Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier want to see an investigation into the party's ballot counting process because of a discrepancy in the number of members who voted and the number of ballots counted, sources tell CTV News.
But others are coming forward to defend a process they say was completely fair.
The party is facing concerns it tallied 141,362 ballots while records from its Constituent Information Management System (CIMS) database show only 133,896 members voted.
Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer won on the last ballot with 50.95 per cent to Quebec MP Maxime Bernier's 49.05 per cent. Bernier had led the 14 contestants on the ballot -- which included Kevin O'Leary, who dropped out after the ballots were printed -- throughout the results. Scheer won 7,049 more votes than Bernier on the last ballot, the party said. That's close to the difference between the number of ballots cast and the number of members recorded as having voted -- 7,466.
A Conservative party official said the discrepancy could be explained by possible errors as volunteers scanned the bar codes found in the voting packages, leaving some party members uncounted on the CIMS list. He said the CIMS list also wouldn't have included most of the members who cast ballots at the remote polling stations set up by some riding associations.
After eliminating the number of votes cast in person and not included on the CIMS list, that would still be about 3,400 more ballots than voting members on the list, a source told CTV's senior political correspondent Glen McGregor.
No official complaint has been filed with the party, raising eyebrows among those who don't believe the implication that there's a problem with the voting result.
The anonymous complaints to reporters have split party insiders. Some don't believe the party's explanation and question whether some votes were double-counted. Others say they trust those in charge of the process. One pointed to the party following its rules and eliminating 1,351 fake memberships after the O'Leary campaign complained about them, despite many within the party not having wanted O'Leary to win the race.
Others raised concerns about not receiving ballots, despite repeated phone calls to the party.
The discussion spilled onto Twitter over the weekend, with the leadership race's deputy returning officer, Derek Vanstone, defending the process and answering concerns from party members.
In an interview with CTVNews.ca, Vanstone defended the process from start to finish.
"There's no point where 4,000 extra ballots could have appeared. It's just physically impossible. It would have been noticed by the volunteers, by people like myself, by the party staff and by the scrutineers," Vanstone said, noting the ballots would have required around 20 boxes to hold.
Any discrepancy, he says, is due to human error. He says some of the variation between the number of members recorded as having voted and the total number of ballots could be due to volunteers leaving their computers without having saved their work and CIMS -- an old program that then lost those unsaved entries.
Any double-scanned ballots would have been caught, Vanstone said. They were scanned in batches of 100, then wrapped in elastic bands with sequential numbers attached so they could count the batches. In one case, a batch was accidentally scanned twice, but caught right away, deleted and re-scanned under the watchful eyes of auditors, staff and scrutineers.
"It was a very, very tightly controlled process from beginning to end," he said.
"When you have a very close race, it's normal for candidates and campaign teams to go back and say, ‘What could we have done differently, are we confident that everything was done correctly...’ Things like this CIMS miscount really might stand out to some of them. What I wish they had done though was sit down with those of us who were in charge of the process to ask the questions before allegations started to be made."
The party says the candidates' scrutineers were welcome at every stage of the ballot counting, from when the mailed-in votes were opened to when the Brinks truck unloaded the ballot boxes for the votes to be counted at the Toronto Convention Centre. It also livestreamed much of the process on its website.
Michael Diamond, a scrutineer for the Kellie Leitch campaign -- and her spokesman for much of the race -- says there was nothing wrong with the ballot counting process.
"I've never seen losers complain about the results like they are now," he told CTVNews.ca. "Andrew Scheer won fair and square. It's unfair to him and to his team."
Diamond says it's normal in politics to lose more than win.
"Being upset at the results is fine. Losing is not fun... but that's a part of politics."
With a report from CTV senior political correspondent Glen McGregor