TORONTO - Ontario's Progressive Conservative party, fending off criticisms about the system put in place to help select its new leader, has given members more time both to register for the right to vote and actually cast their ballots.
A senior party source confirmed on Saturday that the organization has extended the voting deadline, pushing it back from March 8 to noon on March 9.
Earlier in the day, the party also announced it was extending the voter registration deadline for the second time in one week. Party members originally had to register to cast their online ballots by March 2, but the party extended that deadline to March 5 before ultimately setting it at noon on March 7.
Some of the four candidates currently vying to take the party reins have criticized the complexity of the voting system put in place for the leadership contest, which had to be organized after former leader Patrick Brown abruptly resigned in late January amid sexual misconduct allegations.
Brown, who vehemently denies all allegations against him, briefly tried to reclaim his old job by entering the leadership contest himself. He withdrew from the field earlier this week, however, saying his bid was taking a toll on his family and friends.
Four candidates remain in the race for the party leadership — former provincial legislator Christine Elliott, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford, Toronto lawyer and business woman Caroline Mulroney and social conservative advocate Tanya Granic Allen.
The Tories, whose membership management system was hacked in November, implemented a two-step process to verify the identity of voters, which requires party members to submit photo ID and wait to receive a special code in the mail.
At least one of the campaigns previously said that scores of members were still waiting for that document even as the voting period began.
"We're urging the party to make sure that people get their PINs so that they can vote because it's important that everyone, all members, have a chance to vote in this leadership," Mulroney said at a Toronto event on Friday. "I am concerned about it."
Concerns have also been raised about the possibility of membership fraud through the use of prepaid credit cards. Some candidates argue payments made through them cannot be tracked, which makes it impossible to verify that the person buying a membership is the person who casts a ballot.
Hartley Lefton, chair of the leadership organizing committee, previously stated that the party was aware of and working to resolve concerns around the mailing of voting documents.
Despite the changes to both the registration and voting windows, the party source said the date the new leader is announced has not changed. The results of the leadership contest are still slated to be revealed on March 10.
Each party member gets one vote, which will be converted into electoral votes, the party said. There are up to 100 electoral votes per riding, to be allocated to each candidate in proportion to the votes they received in the riding.
The leadership will be determined using a ranked ballot, in which voters pick their preferred candidates and have the option to select a second, third and fourth choice.
The winner is whoever receives more than half the total electoral votes. If no one crosses that threshold on the first round, whoever has the fewest votes or less than 10 per cent gets eliminated and those votes get redistributed to whoever was marked as the second choice. This continues until a winner emerges.