New e-voting system in Alberta PC leadership race will allow multiple votes …

CALGARY — An Alberta leadership race that is being compared to the television series House of Cards for its sudden revelations took another turn for the dramatic Thursday as more details emerged about potential leakers, misspent funds, and voting-day protocols.

The long-ruling Progressive Conservative party confirmed to the National Post its new e-voting system — the first of its kind to be allowed in a leadership contest in Alberta — will enable multiple votes to be recorded from the same telephone line.

“We are accepting multiple votes from one phone number,” said Kelley Charlebois, the party’s executive director.

“[W]e are acknowledging that people may be getting together at an event to vote. We have polling stations where you will not be voting on a paper ballot — you will be voting through the same technology that you would be using from home. So we know that there is going to be examples where there is a single phone line being used for multiple votes.”

The number of votes from an individual phone line will not be capped, he added.

“We didn’t set a hard-and-fast rule. But certainly, the system monitors the number of calls coming from a particular phone line,” he said.

“Our system will flag it, and depending on the number, we will start asking questions.”

Voting lists are notoriously opaque, and the method by which the party decides who it picks as leader is ultimately an internal decision. However, as the Progressive Conservatives have been in power for 43 years, leadership contests are, in some ways, more important than general elections.

There has already been controversy: front-runner Jim Prentice has admitted his campaign is giving away party memberships, which allow people to vote in the race. (Normally, they cost $10 apiece.)

Mr. Charlebois said the party agreed to e-voting because it would allow members to cast ballots from far-flung regions of the province, hopefully encouraging renewal and participation.

Unlike in 2011, it believes the technology is now robust enough to handle the vote to replace Alison Redford.

Leadership contestant Thomas Lukaszuk said he was not aware multiple votes would be allowed from the same telephone line.

“That would be a free-for-all. I don’t mean free memberships, because that is already happening,” he wrote to the Post.

The Alberta system and e-voting in general have many skeptics.

“You’ve got to be kidding” was the response of Duane Bratt, a professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University.

“It’s ripe for abuse. How do you know that it’s one person in a room voting, or 10 people in a room voting, or one person in a room voting 10 times, or 20 times, or 30 times?”

Meanwhile, controversy continues to build around Mr. Lukaszuk and the $20,000 phone bill wracked up in 2012 while he said he was conducting government business on a personal vacation abroad.

The bill was leaked to the Edmonton Sun, allegedly fraudulently using the name of a Calgary man.

That would be a free-for-all. I don’t mean free memberships, because that is already happening

Thursday, the newspaper reported Manmeet Bhullar, the human services minister, had approached opposition party members to encourage them to use the Freedom of Information Act to check Mr. Lukaszuk’s expenses.

A source confirmed the story to the Post.

Mr. Bhullar vehemently denied the allegations Wednesday and refused to comment on “legislature hallway gossip.”

“I have nothing to do with this [leak] and to insinuate otherwise is defamatory and I will consider all of my legal options,” he said.

Whether Mr. Lukaszuk was attending to government business during the pricey phone conversations remains an open question: in 2012, the then-deputy minister said he received a phone call from a cabinet minister for help dealing with an explosive family issue, details of which are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.

Deron Bilous, the New Democratic Party MLA for Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, wondered why Mr. Lukaszuk did not contact the police.

“If [the minister] were was in a situation where they’re in danger, obviously the police are the first people to go to,” he said.

He also asked why Mr. Lukaszuk did not buy a roaming plan before travelling abroad.

Jessica Johnson, a spokeswomen for the Alberta Ministry of Service, said this was not

an option for government members at the time.

In 2011, a review found most only used their phones in Canada, so the province opted for a plan that offered a better domestic rate, but did not have international roaming packages and bundles.

The move saved Alberta $6-million, overall — but resulted in abnormally high international charges for some individuals, she said.

When MLAs and ministers began to travel abroad more often under Ms. Redford’s regime, the plan was changed to allow international data packages, she added.

National Post

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