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HomeBusinessExclusive: Falcon foes fear voter fraud in BC Liberal leadership contest

Exclusive: Falcon foes fear voter fraud in BC Liberal leadership contest

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Bob Mackin

Less than a month before the BC Liberals are scheduled to elect their new leader, more controversy that insiders fear could ruin the party’s comeback bid.

Kevin Falcon (left), Michael Lee, Renee Merrifield, Stan Sipos, Gavin Dew, Val Litwin and Ellis Ross (BC Liberals)

theBreaker.news has exclusively obtained a copy of a Jan. 5 letter written by campaign managers for five of the contestants to the Leadership Election Organizing Committee. They claim the election could be tainted by thousands of illegitimate memberships. 

“We are collectively concerned about the potential for voter fraud, the current audit process, and the risk of catastrophic reputational damage to the party, party staff, LEOC, the executive and all of us if this race is perceived as anything less than free and fair,” said the letter, which was signed by managers for leadership hopefuls Gavin Dew, Michael Lee, Renee Merrifield, Ellis Ross and Stan Sipos. 

The party already planned to randomly audit 10% of memberships. But the managers for all contestants, except Kevin Falcon and Val Litwin, say their independent reviews of the membership list suggest between a third and half of all memberships should be flagged for audit.

“As of this letter, there are around 5,000 members flagged as ‘audit’ which represents approximately 11% of ‘eligible’ members,” the letter said. 

The five campaigns claim to have found multiple members who:

  • Share the same phone number or email address; 
  • Share the same phone number or email address, but list different residences, including in separate ridings; 
  • Provided non-residential addresses, including addresses for businesses, parking lots and even a forest service road; 
  • Provided out-of-province phone numbers and/or addresses. 

“Additionally, some campaigns have been contacting members by phone and in-person who attest that they have no idea that they are members, who the BC Liberal Party is, and/or that a leadership race is underway,” the letter said. “We know we all have the same objective, which is to ensure a fair leadership election so our party can begin the work to rebuild and renew so we can be competitive in the next election.”

theBreaker.news reached party president Cameron Stolz by phone on Jan. 7, but Stolz refused to answer questions. A prepared statement delivered later by party communications director David Wasyluk said the party would not discuss auditing and authentication due to confidentiality reasons.

“However, I can confirm our audit system has identified some members who need additional follow up to meet our audit standards. Our registration and voting systems are designed to ensure that members who do not satisfy our audit standards will not be able to cast ballots,” said Wasyluk’s statement.

“As with any leadership election the goal of the party is to deliver a verification and voting system that is safe and secure while providing our membership confidence in the results.”

The five campaign managers want the party to delay the opening of voting registration until concerns are adequately addressed and mitigated; schedule a joint meeting with LEOC and the chief returning officer; and commit, in-writing, to enforce the rules, if any candidate or campaign is found to have breached the rules. 

On Dec. 18, theBreaker.news was first to report on allegations of irregularities by the campaign of perceived frontrunner Falcon. His campaign manager, Kareem Allam, claimed on Twitter Dec. 17 that no other campaign sold more new memberships than Falcon’s. 

At the time, BC Liberal insiders alleged that as many as 2,500 new memberships sold by Falcon’s campaign were in dispute.

In a Dec. 18 email to theBreaker.news, Falcon dismissed the controversy as sour grapes.

Kevin Falcon

“It’s the typical kind of accusations made from a competing campaign that realizes we have signed up the most new members. The party has a rigorous audit process and if there are any mistakes found in new memberships (very common when campaigns are signing up thousands of new members) then they will be dealt with,” Falcon said.

The party set Dec. 17 as the deadline to sign-up new members and Dec. 29 as the deadline for renewals in order to be eligible for voting in the Feb. 3-5 election.  

Each electoral district is allocated 100 points under the weighted voting system. Andrew Wilkinson, the 2018 winner, resigned after losing the 2020 snap election to the NDP. Shirley Bond became the interim leader.

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