OTTAWA - Less than 40 per cent of the almost 300,000 members and supporters who signed up to choose the Liberal party's next leader have so far registered to vote, despite a big push by the party to boost the disappointing numbers.
The party last week agreed to a request by front-runner Justin Trudeau to extend the deadline for registration by one week to Thursday.
It even conducted a phone campaign over the weekend which allowed supporters to register on the spot — a move that rival camps grumble amounted to party resources being used for the almost exclusive benefit of the front-runner.
But with only three days left before the new deadline, only 114,000 people — or 39 per cent of the 294,000 party members and supporters — have so far registered to vote.
That's up only marginally over the 36 per cent who had registered by the original deadline of Mar. 14.
Moreover, rival camps suggest that number may be artificially inflated by dozens of bogus registrants.
Detailed information on registered voters is supposed to be kept confidential.
But rival camps privately say they've discovered numerous anomalies following the weekend's mass registration campaign, including instances in which dozens of registered voters — in one case, more than 100 — provided the same email address.
The Trudeau camp, which claims to have signed up about 165,000 supporters, sought an extension because it said the party had been unable to get registration packages to more than 100,000 supporters who signed up without providing email addresses.
Rival camps maintain almost all those without email addresses were signed up by the Trudeau team. The Trudeau camp acknowledges the bulk are theirs but maintains about 30,000 of them were signed up by others.
Vancouver MP Joyce Murray's team argued strenuously against extending voter registration, backed by Martha Hall Findlay and Martin Cauchon.
"We were defenders of following the rules and not changing the goal posts," Murray said in an interview Monday.
"There's no doubt that the extension was a benefit to the front-runner campaign and the calls that were made over the weekend, again, were assisting one of the campaigns more than the others."
That said, Murray said she accepts the party's decision to "weigh more heavily on the goal of participation than the goal of fairness within the campaign and amongst the campaigns."
While she's a "big supporter" of the party's decision to open up the leadership vote to non-dues paying supporters, Murray said she's concerned that the phone campaign over the weekend has allowed abuses.
"I have asked the party how are they ascertaining the validity of each and every person when there were mass registrations happening by paid employees. I'm concerned about that, frankly."
Murray said the rule was supposed to be that each person had to make the effort to register themselves, either online or by mail.
"(That) was a deliberate mechanism put in place to ensure that these were each legitimate, committed people that were able to vote."
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Pierre Trudeau is saluted by RCMP Officer as he carries son Justin to Rideau Hall in 1973. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/14/justin-trudeau-cries-cried-photo-loyalist-college_n_2690299.html">Justin Trudeau teared up when he was presented with a framed copy while visiting Loyalist College in 2013</a>.
Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau delivers a right hook to his older brother Justin during a play fight in 1980 at Ottawa airport as the boys await a flight with the return of their father, then-prime minister, Pierre Trudeau. Nobody was injured. Justin was born in 1971 and Sacha in 1973 - both on Christmas day.
March 1979 photo of the Trudeau children: Michel (front), Alexandre (Sacha) and Justin (rear).
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Then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau and 10 year-old son Justin walk toward a plane at CFB Ottawa on Nov. 7, 1982.
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Justin Trudeau and friend Mathieu Walker in the Sahara desert in October, 1994.
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Sophie Gregoire waves to the crowd as she arrives for her wedding to Justin Trudeau, son of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, in Montreal Saturday, May 28, 2005.
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Justin Trudeau, then Liberal candidate for the riding of Papineau, on the campaign trail with his mother, Margaret, in Montreal on Sept. 23, 2008. Trudeau snatched the riding from the Bloc Québécois by 1,189 votes.
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Liberal MP Justin Trudeau celebrates after he defeated Senator Patrick Brazeau during charity boxing match for cancer research Saturday, March 31, 2012 in Ottawa .
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau kisses his wife Sophie Grégoire after winning a boxing match against Senator Patrick Brazeau on Saturday, March 31, 2012 in Ottawa.
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Liberal MP Justin Trudeau announces he will seek the leadership of the party at a news conference, Tuesday, October 2, 2012 in Montreal.
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