POLITICS

Liberal Leadership Voter Turnout Strong In Early Hours

04/07/2013 11:26 EDT | Updated 06/07/2013 05:12 EDT
Voter turnout in the federal Liberal leadership race appeared strong 24 hours after Saturday's "national showcase" where the six remaining candidates made their final pitches before a crowd of over 1,000 party faithful in Toronto.

Over 20 per cent of the 127,126 party members and supporters eligible to vote for the next Liberal leader had cast a ballot by Sunday evening.

In an effort to make the voting process more transparent, the Liberal Party on Sunday began publishing the number of votes cast and the number of registered voters by province. Officials say the numbers will continue to be updated regularly throughout the week.

And with each campaign making a final push to get out the vote, the voter turnout was over 10 per cent in each province, with Quebec and Ontario posting higher showings of over 20 per cent.

The six candidates vying for the leadership of the Liberal Party are MPs Justin Trudeau and Joyce Murray, former Toronto-area MP Martha Hall Findlay, former cabinet minister Martin Cauchon, Toronto lawyer Deborah Coyne and retired military officer Karen McCrimmon.

Trudeau, the perceived frontrunner, made a passionate plea on Saturday to restore the Liberals as a viable choice for Canadian voters, saying he would put forward an "irresistible alternative" to the Conservatives in time for the next general election in 2015.

A volunteer with the Trudeau campaign told CBC News campaign staff were not letting up their efforts to get out the vote, be it from call centres or in kitchen tables.

"It's still an election and we're not taking anything for granted," said volunteer Annamaria Nunziata.

Brad Lister, a volunteer with Joyce Murray's campaign, told CBC News they are hoping to do the same and "extoll the values of Joyce."

Martha Hall Findlay, who conceded she was the "underdog" during her speech, is counting on undecided voters.

"That undecided conversation is an important one to have," Angus Rennie, a volunteer for the Hall Findlay campaign, told CBC News.

Registered voters attending the showcase were able to cast their ballots after the candidates finished their speeches, while others began voting Sunday, online or by phone.

Voters have until April 14 at 3 p.m. ET to cast a ballot. The final results are expected to be announced after 5 p.m. ET that same day.

Labrador byelection

The next leader will be elected through a preferential ballot based on a points system that gives each of the 308 ridings across the country 100 points for a total of 30,800 points.

The winner will have to obtain 50 per cent plus one, or a total of 15,401 points.

The first test for the new Liberal leader will come with a byelection in the riding of Labrador on May 13.

Liberals are hoping to regain the seat they lost to the Conservatives by 79 votes in the last federal election.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had until September to call the byelection but chose to call it early.

Another challenge for the new leader will be to figure out what part of the country they are going to focus their re-building efforts on.

Nik Nanos, president and CEO of Nanos Research, told CBC Radio's The House on Saturday that "what the Liberals lack is a regional base."

"Mathematically, if a party wants to win a federal election, it must have a regional base… and right now it's slim pickings," Nanos said.

Also on HuffPost

15 Questions Answered About The Liberal Convention