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HomeBusinessExclusive: BC Liberals set to elect new leader with out-of-country voters and no scrutineers

Exclusive: BC Liberals set to elect new leader with out-of-country voters and no scrutineers

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Bob Mackin

Just three days before the BC Liberals begin to vote for their next leader, a party insider fears the election will be easily manipulated.

In a Jan. 31 email to party interim executive Lindsay Cote, obtained by theBreaker.news, Michael Lee’s campaign manager wrote that contractor Votem does not have basic safeguards to limit the use of multiple IP addresses and virtual private networks, nor is the party allowing real-time oversight.

Michael Lee (left) and Kevin Falcon, from the Jan. 18 BC Liberal leadership debate (BC1)

“Campaigns are to trust that this vote will have integrity, with no ability to independently verify this, despite that being a basic standard in all other types of modern day elections,” wrote Diamond Isinger.

Campaigns will have no way to digitally scrutinize the process as it happens, according to the email. Only after polls close will two people from each campaign be allowed into a room at the Wall Centre Hotel “to receive very high-level info (e.g. how many votes were cast, etc.) provided in a hurry before the new leader is announced.”

Additionally, an unlimited number of votes can be cast online from anywhere in the world. The email said that the candidates had been assured that those legitimately out of country, such as on vacation, would need to vote by phone. But that policy changed in the last few days. 

Without a way to monitor the system in real-time, the potential for abuse is significant. The email said that it is standard for scrutineers to see who is coming or going and observe whether a voter has walked through a door multiple times to vote or if a voter shows up claiming to be someone else.

“In this metaphor, the online voting systems will allow Joe Voter to walk in the (virtual) door of the polling station as many times as he wants and allow Susie Voter to vote on behalf of as many people as she wants, with no ability for campaigns to be made aware of this,” Isinger wrote. “Similarly, someone could phone the helpdesk from her cell phone 100 times to cast 100 votes over the course of a day and this would not be disclosed to campaigns, nor are we being provided with the ability to proactively scrutineer those call logs.”

From the Jan. 18 BC Liberal leadership debate (BC1)

Nobody from BC Liberal headquarters responded for comment by deadline.

The campaign has been rocked by allegations of mass-quantities of fraudulent memberships. theBreaker.news revealed that five of the seven candidates wrote to the leadership election organizing committee on Jan. 5, demanding a thorough audit because thousands of members provided incorrect, non-existent or out of country contact information. 

“This is unbelievable for a leadership race, in the BC Liberal party, in British Columbia, in Canada, in the year 2022, which is being conducted online (with limited phone voting options) and requires both solid technology and common sense rules to underpin it,” said Isinger’s email.

Isinger’s email came two hours after Cote conveyed a message from Pete Martin, the CEO of Votem.

“We cannot universally put a limit of 10 votes or less per site/IP. Our CastIron platform and our Google cloud hosting partner have multiple security strategies for detecting and preventing bot-voting and other nefarious election hacks,” according to Martin. 

Martin said an unnamed third party monitoring service has been retained, but “we do not track IP address interactions to votes to ensure the privacy of voters throughout the process of casting their ballots.”

Wrote Cote: “I want to assure each of you, that the limitation to the system is not something that LEOC or the BCLP staff have asked for however, we are confident that with this additional program we will be able to monitor for suspicious behaviour and act accordingly.”

During the Jan. 18 debate, Lee lambasted perceived frontrunner Kevin Falcon, whose campaign is accused of selling fraudulent memberships. 

“We need to use this as the opportunity to restore that trust,” Lee said. “And the first step to restoring trust with British Columbians is running a process that every member can have confidence in, and the result the outcome, we need to go forward united. But your old style of politics, your backroom deals only erodes trust in our party, Kevin.”

Falcon denied the allegations and accused Lee of “creating a cloud of distrust.”

Party members vote online or by phone in a ranked ballot system from Feb. 3-5. 

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