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How New Democrats will select their next leader

A worker constructs voting stations as the NDP get ready for the party leadership convention in Toronto on Wednesday, March 21, 2012.


The federal New Democrats have opted to select their new leader through a complicated system that is highly democratic but leaves the outcome unpredictable until the final ballot results are announced. This is how it has been structured.

Where is the convention?

The Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It was moved there after the original venue was determined to be too small. Several thousand New Democrats are expected to turn out for the live event, which starts Friday and wraps up Saturday.

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What is happening on Friday?

Each of the seven candidates will have 20 minutes to present their "showcase," which is their opportunity to make their pitch to voters. In the evening, there will be a tribute to former leader Jack Layton featuring guest speakers, video messages and live music.

Who gets to vote?

Paid-up party members. There were 128,351 of them – including 44,000 new members since last August – at the cutoff date in February. They are distributed unevenly across the country. Quebec, which has the most NDP MPs, has 12,266 voting members, while British Columbia has 38,735 and Ontario has 36,760. Experience suggests that the turnout will range between 70 and 80 per cent.

How will they vote?

There are four ways to cast a ballot: in advance by mail; in advance online; on the floor of the convention; and at home during the convention via their own computer.

The first results will be announced at 10 a.m. on Saturday and will include all of the advance votes. The candidate with the fewest votes on each ballot must drop out of the race. The voting will continue until one candidate has more than 50 per cent of the votes.

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How did voting in advance work?

Each voter ranked the candidates from first to last – though they did not have to rank all seven if they didn't want to. If the candidate who was their first choice drops out of the race, their vote will go to their second-choice candidate. If their second choice loses the next round, their support will go to their third-choice candidate, and so on.

As of Thursday afternoon, approximately 50,000 people had cast advanced ballots. The cutoff time for mail-in ballots was 5 p.m. that day. The cutoff time to vote in advance online is 11 a.m. Friday.

How will people vote in real time?

Those attending the convention will line up to make their selection when voting opens. The first real-time ballot will open at 5 p.m. Friday and close at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Those who choose to mark their ballots at home from their computers will also have to do so between the times the voting opens and closes. In theory, it could go to six ballots, but that is highly unlikely.

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