Liberal Leadership Vote Tally Breezes Past 50% Mark

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JUSTIN TRUDEAU
Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau speaks at a Get Out the Vote rally in Toronto on Tuesday, April 9, 2013. Party members cast their votes up until Sunday to determine who will be the next leader. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu | CP

Voting in the Liberal leadership race passed the 50 per cent mark Wednesday, pulling ahead of the 49.6 voter turnout in the NDP leadership contest a year ago.

By noon Wednesday, the Liberal vote tally was 65,562 out of total of 127, 25 registered voters, according to the Liberal Party's website.

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 leadership candidate making a final push to get votes, response has been over 50 per cent in each province.

The Liberal Party had faced some criticism because of the 294,000 members and supporters who were eligible to vote in this week's balloting, less than 50 per cent took the step of officially registering with the party in order to receive a voter ID and PIN number.

However, reaching the halfway point in mid-week in ballot-casting means that voter turnout will likely be much higher by the time the week ends.

In the Liberal race, voters cast ballots online or by telephone, and enter their preferential choices for each candidate, ranking them by first choice, second, third and so on. It is possible for a voter to enter only a first choice.

Each riding is worth 100 points, so that a small number of votes from a sparsely populated riding has equal weight with a large number of votes from a populous riding.

The first candidate to win 15,401 points will be the next leader of the Liberal Party.

The winner will be announced Sunday evening in Ottawa in an announcement that will also reveal the number of points each candidate garnered. Detailed results riding-by-riding will be posted on the party's website.

Voting in the NDP leadership race last year was slightly different, which may account for the lower turnout. In the NDP race, party members could vote in the days before the leadership convention, and many of them did, in a preferential choice, instant runoff ballot.

But a small number decided to vote during the NDP's televised Toronto convention, ballot by ballot. At one point, the NDP computers suffered a denial of service outage which delayed voting by many hours.

Race is almost over

The Liberal leadership race began in November and all official campaign events have finished.

The six candidates vying for the leadership of the Liberal Party are:

- MP Justin Trudeau.

- MP Joyce Murray.

- Former Toronto-area MP Martha Hall Findlay.

- Former cabinet minister Martin Cauchon.

- Toronto lawyer Deborah Coyne.

- 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 that campaign staffers were not letting up their efforts to get people to vote.

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

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

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 Saturday's 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 Sunday at 3 p.m. ET to cast a ballot. Final results are expected to be announced after 5 p.m. Sunday.

Labrador byelection

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.

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."

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

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