OTTAWA — The Conservative Party website briefly crashed due to an increase in demand from new members trying to ensure they get a ballot to vote in the leadership race.
The party is moving quickly to validate the hundreds of thousands of new membership applications to put an electoral list in the hands of the six candidates in the coming days – a process that at least one campaign said Wednesday needs to happen quickly to ensure trust in the system.
About 600,000 people are expected to be eligible to vote and the winner will be decided by September 10.
The volume of new sales — more than the number of registered members for the party’s last two leadership races combined — has raised lingering questions about whether the party’s infrastructure is up to the task.
The party insisted it had the job in hand, having hired additional staff and even pre-ordered many of the supplies it will need to assemble the mail-in ballot kits that are expected to be mailed out in late July or early August.
Late Tuesday, a slew of new members received emails welcoming them to the party and asking them to check their mailing address to make sure they got a ballot.
Clicking to do so resulted in an error message for about 30 minutes, the game confirmed to the Star, because the server couldn’t handle the volume of requests.
“It’s the other side of the coin to have such a large number of members now and to have such an intensive verification process going on,” party spokesman Yaroslav Baran said.
The six candidates in the running are eager to receive an updated list of party members.
Without it, they cannot start trying to gain supporters from their rivals and make extensive efforts to secure the vote.
While race rules say they must get one by July 29, the party is working to provide at least a tentative slate in the coming days.
The total number of new members will likely reignite a debate over the veracity of the candidates’ claims about their own membership sales.
Candidate Pierre Poilievre’s team said they sold 311,000 memberships, while Patrick Brown’s campaign claimed 150,000, and the two accuse each other of making up those numbers.
In addition to these sales, the party had around 140,000 existing members at the start, and around 150,000 memberships were sold directly on the party’s website, not through a single candidate.
The other four contestants have not released their total membership sales.
But one of their campaigns on Wednesday demanded that the party end speculation about sales figures and immediately release a provisional list of members.
In a letter to the management organizing committee, Jean Charest’s campaign chair said he was concerned there were “massive amounts” of duplicate memberships, inflating the totals.
Mike Coates suggested that duplicate sales could have one of two origins: first, processing delays meant people were buying a second card because they hadn’t received confirmation of their first, and second, the potential that “acts of deception” were driving membership sales. complaints.
“We trust the ability of party headquarters to weed out duplicates and ineligible members, but we also believe campaigns need transparency about where those duplicates come from,” Coates said.
“Trust but verification is a fundamental tenet of our electoral process.”
He did not specify which “acts of deception” he was talking about.
Poilievre’s campaign has filed a formal complaint against Brown’s alleged sales tactics, while Poilievre has also come under fire for an email that made some people think they didn’t have a membership card, so that they actually had.
The party has previously said it won’t release membership sales by campaign, just a total.
Party sources told The Star that although there are duplicate memberships, as well as instances of multiple card purchases with one credit card – a violation of the rules – so far they have not did not discover what they would consider to be a significant volume of problematic listings.
The publication of the provisional list, however, could provide a geographical picture of the members so far, which in turn could be tested by the campaigns of claims made on this front.
Only the Poilievre camp has released this level of data publicly.