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An NDP supporter rests during the third ballot at the party's leadership convention in Toronto on March 24, 2012.

Pawel Dwulit/Pawel Dwulit/The Canadian Press

Balloting at the New Democrat leadership race has been delayed by outside hackers who attacked the computer system that allowed all party members to cast a ballot from their homes.

The chief electoral officer called the various campaigns early Saturday evening to let them know that a denial-of-service attack had taken place, said Jamey Heath, campaign manager for B.C. MP Nathan Cullen – one of the three contenders left on the ballot.

The NDP has been forced to prolong voting periods and even stagger voting between people on site at the convention and members voting from home. The party has yet to announce the results of its third round of votes, almost 10 hours after the first-round results came out.

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There is no indication yet as to who is behind the attack – or why they did it.

"Somebody outside the system was attempting to mess with our system," said Brad Lavigne, principal secretary to the NDP leader.

"The system was not actually compromised," Mr. Lavigne told reporters. "The only thing that has taken place is that they have jammed up the lines, they have occupied the space that the company was creating for our membership."

He likened it to a situation in which a burglar tries to break into a home and sets off an alarm and is forced to run away. NDP officials said going into the convention they had put the voting procedure into the hands of a company that had lots of experience with this type of computerized ballot and had experienced no major problems.

The voting and the announcement of results of the third ballot were delayed as a result.

"We said let's clear the line that's here at the convention," said Mr. Lavigne "Then at 4:30 [p.m. ET]we're going to let the rest of the line through which is in the rest of the country."

He did not respond directly when asked if he was concerned that this would frustrate voters at home and cause the turnout on the third ballot to drop further.

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"One member, one-vote is worth it," Mr. Lavigne replied. "And if it takes a little bit longer then so be it."

Hours earlier, Thomas Mulcair saw his lead grow in the second ballot, moving up to 38.3-per cent of the votes.

The Quebec MP has a 13-point lead over party strategist Brian Topp (25 per cent) and an 18-point lead over B.C.'s Nathan Cullen (19.9 per cent). The winner needs 50 per cent of the vote, which opens the possibility that the race to replace Jack Layton will go to four ballots.

Peggy Nash finished fourth in the second round and was forced off the ballot. The Toronto MP released her delegates to vote whichever way they see fit.

Three other contenders – Ottawa MP Paul Dewar, Nova Scotia businessman Martin Singh and Manitoba MP Niki Ashton – dropped out of the race after the first round of voting.

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