The turnout during the advance polls for the 2019 provincial election was a record breaker.
This is good news, but it also adds to the suspense of Tuesday’s election day. That’s because a portion of the results from the advance polls will not be counted on election night.
Chief electoral officer Glen Resler stated the number of votes at the advance polls is almost triple the number in the 2015 general election.
“Over 696,000 ballots cast provincewide in five days.”
Electors had the ability to cast their ballot at any of the 268 advance polling locations across the province.
About 473,000 ballots were cast by electors in their electoral divisions. These ballots will be counted following the closing of polls.
About 223,000 ballots were cast by electors outside of their electoral divisions. These ballots will not be part of the unofficial results released Tuesday night. That means Albertans will have to wait for the results of the ballots, which will be counted in the days following election day.
Drew Westwater, Elections Alberta’s deputy chief electoral officer, said the 223,000 ballots will be counted in Edmonton starting Wednesday.
“We will count them until they’re finished and we anticipate it will be sometime Saturday or before,” Westwater said.
That means the unofficial results released on election night, especially in a close race, may be different come Saturday. Westwater said people will have to wait until all the ballots are counted, including the 223,000 ballots from advance polls.
Westwater explained returning officers are only authorized to count ballots for their own electoral division once polls close, so they’re not able to count the votes people cast outside of their electoral districts.
“That’s the reason we’re counting them here (in Edmonton at election headquarters) and not sending them back to their returning officers, and then sending it back to us, because that’ll take several weeks,” Westwater said.
Elections Alberta is speeding up the process and trying to avoid what happened in B.C. elections in 2017, when people had to wait several weeks for results in the new vote-anywhere process.
Lacombe-Ponoka United Conservative Party candidate Ron Orr said many have already voted in his riding.
“I was at the returning officer’s office this morning and basically a third of the electors in Lacombe-Ponoka have already voted.
“That’s absolutely the highest it’s ever been.”
Orr said adding the extra days for advance polls was also a good idea because it made it easier for busy people to find a time to vote.
At the Parkland Mall voting location, about 10,000 votes were cast in the advance polls, said Fred Gorman, Red Deer-North returning officer.
“We put through more than 6,000 ballots for Red Deer-North, and we also put another 4,000 ballots through for other ridings across the province.”
The new vote-anywhere process was a first in Alberta in this year’s advance polls.
“So if you were here from Fort McMurray visiting your grandmother, you could’ve gotten a ballot for Fort McMurray and placed your vote here.”
Red Deer South NDP candidate Barb Miller said she spoke to a couple last Friday who had just got a text from their son who was able to vote in Edmonton. He would not have been able to get back to Red Deer to vote before election day.
“It was huge to him. It was the first time he was going to vote and he was worried he wasn’t going to be able to vote,” she said.
“They’ve got the kiosks everywhere, at IKEA, at the airport.
“This was brilliant.”
The official results from the election will be announced April 26.
With files from Paul Cowley