Vote-anywhere option draws record numbers to advance polls in Alberta election

A new rule allows people to vote outside of their home constituencies during advance polls

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, left to right, Alberta Liberal Party leader David Khan, Alberta New Democrat Party leader and incumbent premier Rachel Notley and Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel greet each before the start of the 2019 Alberta Leaders Debate in Edmonton on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan)

Record numbers of Albertans are turning out to cast ballots at advance polls for Tuesday’s provincial election.

About 127,000 came out Thursday to bring a three-day total to 403,000, with advance polling continuing today and Saturday.

READ MORE: Notley promises honest, scandal-free government if re-elected in Alberta

The numbers have already shattered the previous record for advance voting set in 2015, when 235,000 people cast ballots ahead of the election.

About 44,000 of those who ventured out Thursday took advantage of a change in election rules that allows them to vote outside of their home constituencies during advance polls.

Figures show 127,000 people have taken advantage of that option so far.

On election day, people will still have to vote within their constituencies.

The vote-anywhere change was introduced in December 2017.

Elections Alberta has said the new rule could have an effect on how advance poll votes are handled, because ballots must be counted in Edmonton.

The office estimates that, in one instance, courier time could be up to two days from Fort McMurray and counting would not begin until the morning after the election.

Pamela Renwick, an office spokeswoman, told CTV News that an example of the potential delay would be having two candidates in an electoral division within 100 votes of each other, but there still being 1,000 ballots to be counted.

“For close races, definitely, we’re going to be waiting on the results before we’ll know who is the winner in that electoral division,” she said.

The Alberta election in May 2015 drew 57 per cent of all eligible voters — the highest turnout since the 1979 election when 58 per cent of the electorate participated and elected Peter Lougheed’s Progressive Conservatives to their third straight term in government.

The best turnout in the province’s history occurred in 1935 when 82 per cent of eligible voters came out and swept the newly founded Social Credit Party of Alberta into power, unseating the 14-year government of the United Farmers of Alberta.

The worst showing was in 2008 when 41 per cent cast ballots. It was held a little over a year after Ed Stelmach won a leadership race to replace Ralph Klein as PC leader and premier. The Tories won a decisive majority. (CTV Edmonton, The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Press

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