The B.C. Liberal party says it is taking “legal steps” to identify who is behind text messages providing people with false registration codes to vote in its leadership race.
Voting opened Thursday with the results scheduled to be released Saturday night, although a petition to the B.C. Supreme Court is seeking a 15-day delay in the announcement over concerns about a previous audit the party conducted on new memberships.
The court began hearing arguments in that case on Friday.
Liberal spokesman David Wasyluk says in a statement that the party has received reports of text messages providing people with the false codes but they did not originate from the party, which will not send a text message with a code unless it is requested through the party’s secure site.
Wasyluk declined an interview request and the statement from the party did not say how many complaints about the text messages were received.
However, the statement says members are not able to vote using false verification codes and the returning officer is investigating.
“The party takes any allegations of voter suppression and voter manipulation seriously,” Wasyluk says in the statement.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the party were in court over a last-minute petition that asks a judge to delay the release of the results.
Vikram Bajwa, a longtime Liberal party member, has asked the court for the delay and to force the party to provide details of its audit of thousands of new memberships signed up during the leadership campaign.
The petition also asks that the party be ordered to reveal its conclusions on whether any coordinated voter fraud took place in the leadership race.
Greg Allen, a lawyer for Bajwa, told the court by phone that five of seven leadership campaign teams had also raised concerns about memberships and the audit process in a letter sent last month to the party’s leadership election organizing committee.
The party gained more than 20,000 members during the leadership process for a total of about 43,000, who may vote online or by phone for a new leader to replace Andrew Wilkinson, who resigned after the party’s fall 2020 election defeat.
Wasyluk has said the party took reasonable steps to determine voter eligibility by reviewing and auditing party memberships.
Justice Heather MacNaughton said she was aiming to provide a decision about the delay Friday with reasons to follow.
The seven leadership candidates are legislature members Michael Lee, Ellis Ross and Renee Merrifield; business leaders Gavin Dew, Val Litwin and Stan Sipos; and Kevin Falcon, a former B.C. cabinet minister.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2022.