Liberal leadership hopeful John Abbott and the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador are at odds over how prevalent voting problems are, only three days before the virtual convention that will decide a new leader.
In a media release issued Friday afternoon, Abbott said the party should extend the deadline to cast a ballot.
"We are concerned about the voting system that the Liberal party is conducting," Abbott told CBC News in an interview shortly after his media release.
Abbott is competing for the job against Andrew Furey, an orthopedic surgeon. The virtual convention to decide the party's next leader, and also premier of the province, is scheduled for Monday.
Specifically, Abbott said his campaign staff have heard that registered voters still don't have their PINs, which are needed to vote. Some are still waiting to get them via email and via the mail, Abbott said. He said because of the the party should consider extending the voting deadline.
"We work from the premise that every registered voter has the opportunity, and should have the opportunity to vote. And if there is a delay on behalf of the party, then the voters should not have their vote, potential vote, discounted," he said Friday.
Abbott said the voter helpline that is supposed to help sort these issues out for people, including instructions on how to vote, is "constantly busy" because it's understaffed.
In a statement sent Friday afternoon, Furey's campaign said, "We are hearing from some supporters that they have successfully called the voter helpline to obtain their PIN and were then able to vote. In some cases, supporters have chosen to leave a message with the help centre, and in other cases supporters have chosen to call back at a later time. We continue to offer whatever support we can to registered voters, and understand they are successfully voting throughout the process."
'Isolated' problems only: N.L. Liberal Party
The Liberal Party disagrees with Abbott's portrayal of a problem-plagued voting system, saying the issues he is raising "are isolated, expected and are being addressed as they arise," according to a statement from Michael King, the party's executive director.
"We have full confidence in the integrity of this process. Both campaigns are on a level playing field," he wrote.
King said more than 15,000 people have already voted out of about 34,000 registered voters.
King said the party is aware that some emails, containing PINs, have bounced back, but, he said, that "is likely due to either a typo from when voters entered their email address when they registered or a data entry issue on the part of either campaign."
Both campaigns have been provided a list of people affected by the bounce-backs so they can follow up with them.
King admitted the helpline was "initially very busy" but said extra staff have been added.
"That process is now working smoothly with plenty of time to vote," King said in the statement.