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Campaigns, leadership and Conservative Party officials call ‘bull—t’ on complaints about vote counting

Andrew Scheer, new leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, greets attendees after being named the party’s next leader during the Conservative Party Of Canada Leadership Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Saturday, May 27,.

OTTAWA — Conservative party leadership campaigns staff and party insiders say apparent vote counting discrepancies are much ado about nothing, with no one publicly questioning the close victory of Andrew Scheer.

The vote-counting process that took place just over a week ago in Toronto, under close watch by Deloitte auditors and dozens of campaign scrutineers, was aboveboard, with no complaints registered by any campaigns or individual scrutineers on election day, say multiple sources.

The party confirms no significant complaints were levied against it, and more than a week after Scheer’s win, some are questioning why off-the-record claims by several in the Maxime Bernier camp — after their candidate lost by less than two per cent of the final tally — are being given serious credence.

Andrew Scheer, leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, right, greets his family after being named the party’s next leader during the Conservative Party Of Canada Leadership Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Saturday, May 27, 2017.

Cole Burston/Bloomberg

Members of the Bernier team didn’t respond to inquiries Monday but several senior members of other losing campaigns, speaking on background, described complaints as “bull—t.”

They centre around a discrepancy between the number of voters listed in a database held by the party and the final vote tally released on election night, May 27. The database contained 133,896 entries while the party announced 141,362 party members voted in the process.

Party spokesman Cory Hann said the database was a list to help campaigns with their “get-out-the-vote efforts,” and was “not an official count by any means.” Campaign sources confirmed they were offered daily updates from the list, which helped them assess turnout.

Of 14 locations where partisans could cast their votes on election day, 12 did not use the database, accounting for about 3,000 names not on the list. The rest come from “human error,” Hann said.

About 350 volunteers were busy opening envelopes, checking identification and scanning barcodes on signed declaration forms to verify ballots. The barcode scanning is how names were entered into the database.

Here’s how “human error” came into play, as Hann explained it: If a form was scanned incorrectly, an error dialogue would pop up on an associated computer screen. It would have to be closed before the system could register more names into the database.

Andrew Scheer, new leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, speaks following his victory at the Conservative Party Of Canada Leadership Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Saturday, May 27.

But it was like an “assembly line” in there, Hann said, and sometimes volunteers didn’t notice the error right away. Barcode scanners would still beep with each scan, but the names wouldn’t register until someone closed the error message.

The important thing, however, was that the ballots themselves, the ones that would be counted, were verified — by real people, and in view of campaign scrutineers, party staffers, Deloitte auditors and a live-streaming webcam, Hann explained.

Dan Nowlan, chair of the Leadership Election Organizing Committee, helped set up the rules governing the leadership race. He confirmed the database wasn’t part of the formal ballot-validating or vote-counting process — it was a tool to help campaigns, and auditors never reviewed its contents.

“What was critical was making sure the ballots were valid, the ballots were secure and the ballots were counted. We did that,” Nowlan said, adding that Dominion Voting, which provided the system used for counting, ran about 200 “logic tests” to ensure each ballot electronically scanned into the system was valid.

Andrew Scheer and his wife Jill Scheer second right, sit as ballot results during are announced during the Conservative Party Of Canada Leadership Conference.

“We went through a rigorous, rigorous process to make sure that the race was honest and aboveboard for everybody,” he added. Ballots were even transported by armoured car — with scrutineers and Deloitte representatives inside the car — from the auditor’s office to the congress centre where the leadership event was held.

“We haven’t actually received an official complaint from anyone,” Nowlan said. “I find it hard to believe that anybody would have a problem with the process or think that (the result) wasn’t a proper representation of what the members wanted.”

Another member of the organizing committee, who preferred not to be named, said “this is much ado about nothing,” and there were “zero complaints” on the day of.

I’ve never seen whining like this in politics before. It’s deplorable. Andrew won fair and square.

The committee member said “it’s kind of nonsense” for unnamed sources from a campaign to be speaking up now, when their own scrutineers were present and able to complain during the actual counting process. Instead, campaigns “thanked us for the process and that it ran smoothly.”

In a statement Monday, Erin O’Toole, who finished in third place, said, “based on my team’s experience with the leadership election, I am very confident that the process was run fairly.”

Michael Diamond, who was Kellie Leitch’s director of communications, said stories emerging about the vote count are “ridiculous.”

“I’ve never seen whining like this in politics before,” he said. “It’s deplorable. Andrew won fair and square. It’s not the result I wanted, but we and no other candidate lost because of interference from the party.”

Steve Outhouse, Pierre Lemieux’s campaign manager, said he was personally in the counting room for much of the process. “I got to see them working there. It was online. It was transparent. I think the party did as good a job as possible, especially with a large number of members.”

Members of four additional campaigns, who wanted to remain anonymous, indicated their teams were not aware of any complaints about the party’s process, nor had they heard anything about the result being challenged.

“At the end of the day in all this, we’re confident in the process because the chief returning officer and Deloitte both verified the results,” Hann said. “We couldn’t be more confident.”