UCP board moves Kenney’s contentious leadership review to mail-in ballot, virtual event

“This extraordinary interest in the democratic process shows the strength of our Party. We thank you for being part of it”

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UCP executives have radically changed the game plan to deal with what would have been a crush of attendees weeks before a vote deciding the fate of Premier Jason Kenney.

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In a letter to party members shared with media Wednesday, the UCP Board decided Tuesday night to move to a mail-in ballot, and switch the event to a virtual one instead of meeting at the Cambridge Hotel in Red Deer on April 9.

The party has eliminated the registration fee, and said more information about how to get a refund or a tax receipt for registration fees will be provided “shortly.”

“We should celebrate that since the Special General Meeting was announced, our UCP membership has more than doubled and more than 15,000 people have registered to participate,” said the letter.

Voting will only be open to those who have a current membership as of March 19.

A national auditing firm is being retained to oversee the mail-in vote, with more details promised from the party “in the days ahead.”

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“This extraordinary interest in the democratic process shows the strength of our Party. We thank you for being part of it,” the letter said.

Independent MLA Drew Barnes listed his concerns in a Twitter thread Wednesday, including that rural people who did not buy or renew their memberships by the deadline because of travel concerns would now be excluded from the vote.

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As rumors of the mail-in ballot decision circulated, Blaise Boehmer, a former senior staffer in Kenney’s government, was also critical online. “Canceling the (meeting) and conducting a mail-in ballot? Why even bother at that point? Just declare the premier leader for life and stop with the charades,” he wrote.

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The announcement comes after 33 riding presidents called for all voting to still be held at the Cambridge on April 9 in a letter sent Tuesday.

The letter notes that the executive decided on Red Deer as the location, telling local ridings that one site would help secure the integrity of the vote.

“We think to change this now becomes an even greater logistical difficulty to ensure volunteers exist in multiple cities.”

The presidents write that many members who registered to attend have made travel arrangements, some of them non-refundable, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the attendance numbers were going to be much larger than the 2,500 originally expected.

“To change the location after the membership deadline to vote may even be perceived as underhanded,” the letter said. Saturday was the deadline to register as a member, which is required to cast a vote April 9.

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The letter argues that with proper organization of polling lines and stations, all 20,000 votes could be cast in the original location if voting hours were doubled to 12 hours, from 9 am to 9 pm, suggesting shuttles to other locations to deal with overflow parking.

The presidents also recommend the party increase the number of volunteer scrutineers to include constituency association executives in addition to presidents, and that voter lists be managed on paper and not electronically.

“Relying on any form of electronic lists, be it CIMS or anything else, seems to us like a ‘glitch’ waiting to happen,” said the letter.

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