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Liberal MP and leadership candidate Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, March 7, 2013. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)
Liberal MP and leadership candidate Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, March 7, 2013. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)

Trudeau asks to delay deadline for voter registration Add to ...

Justin Trudeau has asked for an extension of the Thursday deadline for getting people registered to vote in the Liberal party’s leadership race but other candidates oppose giving the process more time.

Less than a third of the nearly 300,000 signed-up members and supporters have actually registered to vote in the contest that ends April 14 and Mr. Trudeau’s team has written to party officials asking that registrations be accepted for an additional week.

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Matthew Certosimo, the Liberals’ national membership secretary, was taking submissions from the different camps and was expected to make a decision about the requested extension on Wednesday.

One senior Liberal said the party obviously wants the process to be as inclusive as possible and is working diligently to ensure that everyone who identifies as a supporter will be able to vote.

Extending the period is likely to help Mr. Trudeau more than the other seven candidates because he has signed up so many more people in the party’s new supporter class – those who are not paid-up members but who will still be allowed to vote as long as they take the subsequent step of registering. So it’s perhaps not surprising that some of his competitors are less than eager to see the registration time prolonged.

Brenden Johnstone, a spokesman for Liberal MP Joyce Murray, said Ms. Murray has had no problem in getting her tens of thousands of members and supporters registered.

“We are over the 50 per cent threshold in our supporters getting registered and we expect the number to increase significantly within the next 48 hours,” Mr. Johnstone said Tuesday. “We do not support an extension. The rules have been clear from the beginning of the leadership process as to how things like registration would work.”

And a spokeswoman for Martha Hall Findlay, a former Liberal MP who is making a second run for the party’s top job, said in an e-mail: “Unless there are clear technical issues preventing people who legitimately want to register from doing so, we should stick to the rules and the announced timelines.”

But Liberal MP Marc Garneau, another top contender, shares Mr. Trudeau’s concerns about the small number of registered voters.

“We are supportive of exploring the extension of the registration period and other options to register more voters,” said his spokeswoman Anne Dawson. “Indeed,” she said, “we were one of the first campaigns to raise the issue of low registrations and we raised it with the party last week. In particular, we expressed concerns about elderly members who do not have e-mail addresses and are unaware of the process.”

Some Liberal supporters who signed up without providing an e-mail address are still waiting for registration forms to arrive by mail. And there have been technical glitches that have prevented other members and supporters from registering online.

But one party official pointed out that candidates have been aware since the fall that the process would require both enlisting supporters and then getting them registered to vote. The party has been mailing registration letters to members and supporters for many weeks, said the official, and it is only those people who signed up just before the March 3 deadline who might still be waiting for those letters to come.

Still, it could call the Liberal party’s competence into question if it is not able to properly organize a leadership convention under the rules it has set for itself.

Cyrus Reporter, a representative of Mr. Trudeau, wrote to the party on Sunday to express his team’s concerns. In addition to requesting the extension, Mr. Reporter asked that a “high intensity phone bank” be engaged to call every supporter who is not registered, that the party develop a way to register people by phone, and that a simultaneous registration and voting option be considered for those who have not met registered by the deadline. Mr. Trudeau’s website urges anyone who has hit a roadblock in the registration process to “please keep trying.”

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