Volunteers of the Federal Liberal Party hang a banner before a leadership candidates debate in Halifax, Nova Scotia March 3, 2013.
Credits: REUTERS/DEVAAN INGRAHAM
OTTAWA - Despite a frantic, last-minute push by the Liberal party to sign up voters for its leadership race, the party appears set to have fewer voters for its race than the NDP did last year.
And one of the party workers involved in the rush to sign up voters said senior party leaders are worried that the low numbers could "embarrass" the party and embarrass Justin Trudeau, widely believed to be the leading candidate.
QMI Agency has learned that 127,000 people are on the Liberal leadership voting list.
A Liberal party worker, who asked not to be named, said those voters - who could be either paid-up members of the party or simply those who declared themselves to be "supporters" - are spread across 95,000 households.
The party had boasted of signing up nearly 300,000 members and supporters who were then supposed to take the second step of registering to vote and obtaining a ballot. The Trudeau campaign said it had signed up 171,000 people on its own.
It appears, then, that less than half of those who signed up bothered to complete the second step to become eligible to vote.
The party declined to confirm those numbers and noted that a process is now in place to verify and confirm many of those registrations. That verification process could result in lowering the number of voters even further.
The party is expected to release the final number of eligible voters next week.
By comparison, about 130,000 paid-up members of the New Democratic Party were eligible to vote in the 2012 leadership race that elected Thomas Mulcair, although only about 65,000 actually cast a ballot.
The Liberal party worker said national membership secretary Matthew Certosimo encouraged dozens of party workers making the last-minute calls to boost the voting numbers. The source said Certosimo warned those workers that the party was at risk of coming up with embarrassing numbers.
The source also said the party's push appeared to be benefiting Trudeau's campaign the most and that Certosimo referred to that campaign specifically.
"I am very upset with the way things are going," the party worker said.
The party declined to respond to questions about Certosimo's comments.
The source said that, among the problems the party had in culling registered voters from the 300,000 who had signed up through the leadership races, many names on the sign-up list were attached to multiple e-mail addresses.
In one case, 150 names on the sign-up list all shared one e-mail address.
"There's a lot of that going on," the party worker said.
As QMI Agency first reported on Sunday, the party hired an outside firm last weekend to sign up voters but the source said the party took that work in-house with its own employees earlier this week.
The six remaining leadership candidates will gather in Montreal Saturday for the contest's final debate.