With less than two days before Friday's 5 p.m. deadline to vote for leader of the Progressive Conservative party, some members are complaining that they still don't have a ballot and can't get answers from the party headquarters.

With less than two days before Friday's 5 p.m. deadline to vote for leader of the Progressive Conservative party, some members are complaining that they still don't have a ballot and can't get answers from the party headquarters.

Some party members want to delay the voting deadline to make sure everyone eligible to cast a ballot is included. Others are wondering if the delay is due to incompetence, understaffing, disorganization or something more nefarious, and are calling for an audit.

"There are still people waiting for ballots," said Dawn Harris, who lives in Gimli. She and her husband bought PC memberships in order to vote for either Heather Stefanson or Shelly Glover, one of whom will be the next premier at least until the next general election scheduled for two years from now.

Harris bought hers online and received a ballot in the mail. Her husband, however, bought his via one of the candidates, and was still waiting Wednesday.

Shelly Glover is disappointed in how the party has handled ballot distribution and that it rushed to hold the leadership race in a matter of weeks. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Shelly Glover is disappointed in how the party has handled ballot distribution and that it rushed to hold the leadership race in a matter of weeks. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

In Iles des Chenes, a Tory member outraged by a Free Press story about a man who said he received a ballot in the mail but has never bought a PC membership wanted to know why she and her husband, who bought memberships in September, were still waiting to receive theirs.

"Is something fishy going on?" asked the woman, who requested that her name not be published.

She spent nearly three hours on the phone in the last week trying to get an answer from the party, she said.

"There are not many people who have time to dig in and try to find a ballot. Most people will just move on," she said.

Raffle violates rules: Liberals

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Manitoba Liberals have filed a complaint with the elections commissioner about a sneaker raffle held to support a PC leadership candidate.

The Liberals claim Tory MLA for Dawson Trail Bob Lagassé offered to enter the names of everyone in his constituency who bought a PC membership in support of Heather Stefanson into a draw for a custom pair of sneakers

Leader Dougald Lamont alleges that Lagassé’s sneaker raffle violates a section of Manitoba’s Election Financing Act on soliciting membership sales.

“It doesn’t matter what the inducement is," Lamont said in a statement. "Clearly the PCs thought it would make a difference or they wouldn’t have offered it.”

Stefanson's campaign declined to comment.

Oct. 1 was the deadline to join the party or renew an existing membership to be eligible to vote for the next leader. Ballots were to be mailed out by Oct. 5 to allow sufficient time to submit votes by Friday's 5 p.m. cutoff to be counted Saturday, when the winner will be announced.

The process was delayed because of a surge in new memberships that had to be processed and verified, the party said previously.

Leadership election committee spokesman Keith Stewart said Wednesday the party has distributed more than 25,000 ballots.

"As with any mail-in election system, there have been a limited number of undeliverable ballots returned to our office," he said in a written statement. "Postal delivery is no longer a viable option to distribute replacement ballots. We are doing all we can to ensure all eligible members have an opportunity to cast their ballot, including offering ballot pickup locations."

That doesn't appear to help Harris's husband.

"Ballot pickup locations are irrelevant if you don't have a ballot," she said, adding he sent an email to party headquarters in Winnipeg Oct. 12, and tried to call last week and three times Wednesday but couldn't get through.

If a lack of staff is the problem, organizers should have hired more staff to make sure the process was smooth, the Iles des Chenes woman said.

"I’m not one to call people out, but I'm concerned this vote will be illegitimate if paying members can’t vote," she said, adding her faith in the democratic process is starting to waver.

"They need to postpone this election or bring in an auditor."

Glover said she's "disappointed" in how the party has handled ballot distribution and that it rushed to hold the leadership race in a matter of weeks, instead of allowing six months for the process take place.

"We're super-concerned about this and have been for some time and we've been doing our very best to help the party find solutions, because it's not even about winning or losing anymore, it's about democracy," said the former police officer and heritage minister in Stephen Harper's Conservative federal government.

"What we're all fighting for is to make sure our members have their right to vote honoured."

Heather Stefanson's campaign referred all questions to the party. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Heather Stefanson's campaign referred all questions to the party. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Stefanson's campaign referred all questions to the party.

Interim Premier Kelvin Goertzen said no leadership race is perfect.

"Almost any mail-in ballot process has some degree of concern because, in some ways, you lose control of ballots when they leave your party headquarters," he told reporters Wednesday.

"I do understand the leadership committee is working through those challenges and problems. It's part and parcel of having 25,000 letters or thereabouts go out the door."

Goertzen said he would wait and see before offering an opinion on the need for an audit.

"The party is going to have to be focused in the next few days ensuring this vote happens and that it happens well and then let's see," the caretaker premier said.

The Opposition leader has concerns, as well.

"I think the PC party has to clear the air. What I've seen so far are some legitimate questions around the membership process and the way this race has been conducted," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

"I think we're in a time where trust in democracy is under attack from many sources and it has been undermined by misinformation on social media platforms. That's why it's so important that we have democratic processes that get it right and are fair. "

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.