Sunday, October 18, 2009

Behind the scenes.

A leadership convention is one of the biggest events for political parties, second only to a general election. Such was the case for the Wildrose Alliance Party this weekend in Edmonton, where we elected Danielle Smith as our new Leader. Much of the weekend events will be reported on by media and bloggers alike. What I would like to share with you is a peek behind the scenes of the most important component of the day; the ballot counting room.

My day begins at 7 AM, after having only a few hours sleep. I head down to the hotel restaurant to grab a coffee before meeting with the volunteers. As I go in I am met by Don Braid, he asks me to join him for breakfast. We have a good, albeit brief chat, he realizes I am still under the impartiality agreement and he doesn’t ask me any out-of-bound questions. I finish my coffee and head to the main convention hall to let the volunteers know where the counting room is located.

In the convention area Betty, a volunteer, has done a bang up job on the decorations and assigning duties to the volunteers. I touch base with Heather, our office administrator and as usual she is on top of everything. I leave to set up the counting room. By 7:45 the volunteers are arriving, included in these are scrutineers from each campaign and our returning officer, Bruce Childs a Chartered Accountant from Edmonton.

The role of scrutineers is to observe the process and question anything they deem irregular or unusual. The role of the returning officer is to oversee the process, hear the concerns of the scrutineers, make rulings on those concerns and make rulings on any questionable ballots. My role was that of liaison to the Leadership Committee to keep them apprised of our progress throughout the day. And also to insure the proper handling of the any correspondence and contribution cheques that were enclosed with the ballots.

By 8:15 we had 18 volunteers ready to go. Being a volunteer in the counting room is not easy, you are sequestered for the day and don’t get to partake in any of the convention activities. The room we used was purposely far removed from the convention floor. Any communication with the outside is not allowed. So cell phones are turned off and left in the room if you go to the washroom. Our lunch was brought in to us and the room was a tad too warm.

The first duty of the volunteers was to open over 6000 envelopes, remove ballots and pass along any cheques and correspondence.

From there they went onto the validation process.

This involved checking the control number against the list of valid and voided control numbers and then remove the control number tab from the ballot. With over 8000 ballots to verify, this was by far the longest procedure of the day.

Then the counting began, the ballots bundled into stacks of fifty and counted twice to insure accuracy. We tried to use a bill counter for the counting unfortunately the thickness of the ballots prevented it from working properly. At this point (roughly around 1 PM) we decided we needed more volunteers. I made a call to Heather and magically nine more people arrived, bringing our total to 27.

From 2 to 4 PM the Leadership Committee was checking in with us frequently. At 4 o’clock we reported to them we had all the Smith votes counted, the Dyrholm ones bundled and had a rough total of 8200 ballots. Also that it was clearly a Smith victory.

Left to be done was the exact count of Dyrholm bundles, count of the spoiled ballots and the reconciliation. The reconciliation involved tabulating the validation sheet totals to make sure it matched the total ballots counted. This would have taken about another 10-15 minutes.

Since we had a lot of members and media waiting, the committee advised they had enough to make the announcement and would do so immediately. At that point I asked (actually, I was pretty vocal about it) if it would be possible to release the volunteers from the room so they could at least see the most important and exciting part of the day. Between them the volunteers had put in nearly 200 hours of work and to miss the announcement would have been heartbreaking. The committee agreed and the volunteers were allowed to go to the convention floor in time to hear each Mark and Danielle speak. The returning officer stayed behind to finish the reconciliation.

About half way through Danielle’s speech the returning officer advised me the reconciliation was complete. I returned to the counting room, secured the ballots, packed up the last of the garbage to be shredded and moved all to a locked facility. At this point I could see people were dispersing from the convention floor, some leaving to the parking lot, others to the Smith hospitality suite.

After a long day in dress clothes and heels, in a stuffy boardroom I decided to go to my room and change; I wanted to be in comfortable jeans for the remainder of the evening. That’s when I got the call; “Hey Jane, do you have those numbers? Because we have a volunteer speaking to the media about it, perhaps that should come from you.” My response, “Um well, all I have on right now are my underwear. How about I post them on the blog and send a Tweet out?” So it was that the results were rather unceremoniously announced.

Today I see from some blogs and forums that there was some confusion as to whether or not we were going to release the numbers. There was never any doubt in my mind that the numbers would be released. The PC’s released theirs in 2006. The Liberals released theirs in 2007. The Wildrose Alliance strives to be open and accountable; we believe in transparency in government. In my opinion, it would have been very hypocritical of us not to release the actual count.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Leadership Vote - Results

I know everyone has eagerly been awaiting the numbers.

Total ballots sent out, just over 11,600.

Total ballots cast 8297; so roughly 71.5 % voter turnout.

Smith 6295

Dyrholm 1905

Spoiled ballots 97

Big thank you to the 20+ volunteers who put in a long day and were unable to take part in the events of the day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Leadership Convention Agenda & Voting Information


Saturday, October 17th, 2009
Holiday Inn Convention Centre
4520 76TH AVE Edmonton
Hotel Front Desk: 1-780-468-5400

Registration open to members and nonmembers for $30,
by pre-registration or at venue. Accredited media ~ free.

8 a.m.
Registration opens

9 a.m.
Welcome by party President Jeff Callaway
Speeches by both candidates

10 a.m.
Concurrent sessions:
Campaigning – Richard Dur, campaign manager Calgary Glenmore (1 hr – members only)
Panel Discussion on constituency-building (1 hr – members only)
Social media – Ken Chapman, Cambridge Strategies Inc (2 hrs – members and nonmembers)

Leadership poll closes
Lunch served
Speech by outgoing Wildrose Alliance leader Paul Hinman, MLA Calgary Glenmore

1 p.m.
Health policy – Nadeem Esmail, Fraser Institute

Between 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Announcement of the vote
Concession speech
Acceptance speech
Closing comments, Jeff Callaway
Media scrum

We expect this event to be finished by 5 p.m. or before, depending on the time required to verify and count ballots.


Reminder if you have not yet returned your ballot you still have time with these options.

In Calgary you can drop them off at our office (address below). We will be open 9 AM to 9 PM on Thursday and from 9 AM to 5 PM on Friday.

In Edmonton you can drop them off at the front desk of the Holiday Inn Convention Centre (address above) until Friday. On Saturday they can be placed right in the ballot box at the convention.

If you are not close to either Edmonton or Calgary the Leadership Candidates have each organized volunteers across the province to act as drop off locations and they will deliver your ballot to the convention.

Here are the links to each of their sites.

Drop off locations organized by Danielle Smith campaign.

Drop off locations organized by Mark Dyrholm campaign.

For all ballot inquiries please email me.

Jane Morgan,
Executive Director

Wildrose Alliance Party
#3, 1303 - 44 Ave NE
Calgary, AB T2E 6L5

Toll free: 1-888-262-1888
Phone: (403) 769-0999
Fax: 1-866-620-4791

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Challenges of Explosive Growth

There has been some chatter on the blogs, forums and Twitter about our balloting process. I would like to take this opportunity to share the inside scoop.

Our constitution calls for individuals to be members 14 days prior to the Leadership vote to be eligible to cast a ballot. This avoids the situation that other parties have experienced with what is often referred to as “two-minute” members. Also we currently have a “one-member, one-vote” system; this too avoids issues we see in other parties with a delegate system, where they can be strong-armed by the powers that be. I favour both of these democratic practices we have in place, but they are not without their own challenges.

Early September we had 4000 some members that we knew of. The candidates also had their own lists on the go and were not required to share their numbers with us, though we did ask. Based on our projections, we ordered 10,000 ballots. The ballots went out in three batches to members as soon as we had their information.

The first was sent out directly from the printer in Edmonton, on September 24. These went to roughly one third (of what we now know are eligible) of the membership.

The second went out on October 1, again directly from the printers. This accounted for the second third of the membership.

It was not until September 28th that we knew for certain we would need more ballot packages, we ordered 5000 more; and normally they take 10 days to produce. We asked the printer to expedite the printing and compiling of the packages. We also asked the printer to send them to us as they were compiled so we could expedite getting them out. Thus we got some within 7 days of order.

The third mailing went out to everyone whose information we received between September 25 and October 2. It was sent out by our office as it was faster for us to affix labels than to have the printer do the additional task of tailoring envelops. With them coming to us from the printer in this fashion we were able to prioritize the order they were sent out.

Rural went first because those had the greatest distance to travel.
Edmonton next as city to city is a bit faster.
And lastly to Calgary as mail within the city is fastest.

All were taken directly to Canada Post’s main sorting depot and were quickly in distribution, they did not sit in a mail box for any length of time. The mail is being turned around very quickly. By Friday the 9th we already had ballots back that we mailed out on Monday and Tuesday.

The ones that were sent out the latest (to Calgary) represent about 10% of our grand total and from what we can tell nearly 80% of those were already delivered by Friday to the members. The bulk of the remainder will in all likelihood be received by members on Tuesday, still allowing the time to get them back to us.

I anticipate voter turn out to be just over 70% or roughly 8100+ votes. With the member cutoff date being October 2nd, we knew we would not be getting most of late members ballots back until the week leading up to the convention.

We are at the midpoint of the voting timeframe and as of Friday the 9th we have received back nearly 3000 ballot envelops. We know from speaking to members, many of these contain 2 or more ballots. It is my estimation that we already have more than 50% of the ballots that will be cast.

I want to assure members that my staff and I have done everything within our power to accomplish this task. We have been working long hours and next week the office will be open late, to the public on Tuesday and Thursday. I am confident the majority of our members who desire to vote, will be able to do so.

The Leadership Committee is fully apprised of the situation and they will be updated daily; should they deem any other provisions need to be made the membership will be advised accordingly.

If you have a specific inquiry please email me, be sure to include your full name and address.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Important voting information and call for volunteers

The following email was sent out to members today.

Dear Members,

It has indeed been a very exciting and incredibly busy time in our Head Office. The ballots are starting to roll in and preparations for the Leadership Convention are being finalized.

As most of you are aware we are under a tight two-week turnaround time for voting in the Leadership race and with next Monday being a holiday it makes it even tighter.

If you have not yet voted, there are two deadlines to keep in mind.

Mailed in ballots need to reach our office by Friday, October 16, 2009.
Voting at the Convention will close at noon, Saturday, October 17, 2009.

If you live in the Calgary area:
You can drop off your ballot at our office next week.
Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM;
Wednesday and Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
#3, 1303 – 44 Ave. NE

If you live in the Edmonton area:
Even if you are not attending the event, you can drop off your ballot at the convention Saturday, October 17, 2009 between 9:00 AM and noon.
Holiday Inn Convention Centre, 4520 – 76 Ave. Edmonton

If you live in rural Alberta:
We suggest that you use Express or Priority post to ensure it reaches us in time.

On a final note we require a number of volunteers for the counting room and other duties at the convention. If this is something you are able to help with please email John Hilton-O’Brien.

Jane Morgan,
Executive Director
Wildrose Alliance Party
#3, 1303 - 44 Ave NE
Calgary, AB T2E 6L5

Toll free: 1-888-262-1888
Phone: (403) 769-0999
Fax: 1-866-620-4791

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wildrose Alliance Membership Zooms Past 11,000 as Leadership Vote Nears

I think this is a first; posting a press release that I am quoted in. Sort of like speaking of ones' self in the third person.

For Immediate Release

Calgary – October 4, 2009 – The Wildrose Alliance Party announced today its final membership numbers heading into the highly anticipated leadership convention in Edmonton later this month.

Wildrose Alliance Party Executive Director Jane Morgan says the party now has 11,670 paid memberships, a huge increase over the approximately 1,800 members at the time of the party’s annual general meeting in June of this year. For further comparison, the Wildrose Alliance Party membership at this time a year ago stood at approximately 1000.

"I am incredibly pleased with the influx of members, especially the number who want to become active and help us continue to grow," says Morgan. "If we can accomplish this amount of growth in just four months, imagine what we can do with 83 active constituencies and a full time leader touring the province."

Interest in the party has grown spectacularly since its formation in early 2008, not only because of the exciting leadership race between Mark Dyrholm and Danielle Smith, but also because of the party’s by-election victory in Calgary-Glenmore last month. In that race, interim Wildrose Alliance Party leader Paul Hinman defeated a longtime PC activist and Calgary Alderman to earn the party its first seat in the legislature, a seat held for four decades by the PC’s, who finished a distant third this time.

“It appears that Albertans by the thousands are hearing our message of common sense conservatism,” said Calgary-Glenmore MLA-elect Hinman, “And are lining up not only to help build our party but to send Ed Stelmach a message that it’s past time to rebuild the Alberta Advantage.” Hinman says he looks forward to working in partnership with our new leader to grow the party and continue to expand our membership across the province.

The Leadership Convention will be held on Saturday, October 17 at the Holiday Inn Convention Centre, 4520 - 76 Ave., Edmonton.

All Wildrose Alliance Party members in good standing by October 2, 2009 are eligible to vote in the leadership election, either at the convention itself or by mail-in ballots which are now being received by members all across Alberta.


For more information contact:
Jane Morgan,
Executive Director,
Wildrose Alliance Party