The Alberta Liberal Party announced yesterday that over 27,567 Albertans are eligible to vote in their party’s September 10 leadership contest. The eligible group of supporters include 3,690 paid members and 23,877 “registered supporters” who could participate by registering their name and contact information without a fee.
Following complaints from leadership candidate and Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald that the list was filled with fake names, including a cat, a dead woman, and former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, the Liberals have culled the list of obvious forgeries (which are to be expected in any leadership contest). Former Edmonton-Meadowlark Tory MLA Raj Sherman claims to have registered over 18,000 of the 27,000 eligible voters. Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman claims that her campaign submitted names for around 1,000. The two other candidates in the contest are Calgarians Bill Harvey and Bruce Payne.
Although the Liberal leadership contest has by far been overshadowed by the more glamorous Progressive Conservative leadership contest set for September 17 (in which over 150,000 Albertans are expected to participate), I am impressed that the Liberals have been able to collect the names of over 27,000 potential supporters. Regardless if these registered supporters actually vote in their leadership contest, their names are now entered into a database that will be useful for the Liberals in the next provincial election.
Not surprisingly, eligible voters in this contest are largely centered in the two main cities of Calgary and Edmonton, highlighting Liberal Party’s almost non-existent levels of support in rural Alberta. Even in a constituency like Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, with a population estimated to be more than 100,000, the Liberals only attracted 134 people to register to vote in their leadership contest.
Unlike traditional one-member-one-vote leadership selection structures, the Liberals have opted to use a weighted-preferential system in constituencies with large numbers of voters. The slightly confusing system is explained on the party’s leadership website:
Each constituency in Alberta is allocated up to 500 points, where each vote up to that number represents one point. Should more than 500 voters cast a ballot in a constituency, each vote in the constituency is applied a weighing formula.
As there are only 15 constituencies with more than 500 eligible voters, it is likely that this system may only be implemented in a handful of them. The only constituency to register more than 1,000 supporters was Edmonton-Whitemud.