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Elections Alberta says a whopping 140,000 Albertans cast a ballot on Day 1 of advance polling

WATCH ABOVE: Elections Alberta is expecting upwards of 500,000 people to vote in advance polls. As Lauren Pullen reports, this election it's even easier for Albertans to cast their ballots ahead of Election Day.

Many political pundits have said the 2019 Alberta election will be a battle the likes of which the province hasn’t seen in ages and if numbers from the first day of advance polling are any indication, voter engagement is heightened as well.

On Tuesday night, Elections Alberta posted the figures, showing a staggering 140,000 (approximate number) Albertans turned out to cast ballots on the first day they were able to. For context, on the first day of advance polling in 2015, about 58,000 Albertans voted.

READ MORE: Alberta election cheat sheet: A last-minute voter’s guide

Elections Alberta said there are 2.7 million registered voters on its list, meaning approximately five per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot on Day 1 of advance polls.

There has also been a “very high request” for special ballots, according to Elections Alberta. Special ballots are requested by voters who are away during the advance polls or on election day.

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Close to 30,000 people have requested a special ballot.

READ MORE: Alberta election: How, when, where to vote

The 2015 vote saw about 235,000 Albertans take advantage of advance polls, setting a record for the number of advance votes in provincial history at the time.

READ MORE: Albertans flock to 2015 advance polls in record numbers

This election also marks the first time Elections Alberta has opened up the voting process to allow Albertans to cast their ballots at any polling station. Based on Tuesday’s numbers, the opportunity to do this is being seized upon with Elections Alberta saying about 33,000 of Tuesday’s 140,000 votes came from people voting outside their electoral districts.

Elections Alberta said it hasn’t been able to look into the numbers yet to see where in Alberta voters took advantage of the Vote Anywhere option.

READ MORE: Voting change makes it easier for Alberta university students to participate in election

Pamela Renwick with Elections Alberta wouldn’t speculate on whether the new option is making advance voting easier, or if it’s the heightened interest in this election that has led to the bigger numbers.

“We’d love to take all the credit that we made it easier, but there’s much more that goes into someone’s position than that,” she said.

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One thing that’s important to note is that voters taking advantage of the Vote Anywhere option won’t have their vote counted until the day after the election.

“[On] election night, we are going to be completely focused on getting all the polls to report because we’re going to be counting all the election day polls, the mobile polls, special ballot[s] and all the advance polls in electoral district ballots,” Renwick said. “Our focus is going to be there.”

That means it could be days before the final number of votes cast is counted, and that some ridings have the potential to be in limbo during that time. Renwick said Elections Alberta would release the number of ballots cast outside designated electoral districts on Monday.

Watch below: We are still days away from the Alberta election, but a record number of voters have already had their say. Kendra Slugoski reports.

More advance poll options mean huge early voter turnout in Alberta
More advance poll options mean huge early voter turnout in Alberta

Also new this year is where Elections Alberta can hold advance polls.

Changes to the legislation means there are about 100 new locations for advance polls in malls, airports, rec centres and even one in IKEA in Edmonton on Saturday.

“We’ve tried to pick a bunch of locations we could get access to [that] we thought would be convenient for voters,” Renwick said.

The Edmonton International Airport is also hosting advance polling stations from April 9 to 13.

All registered Alberta voters can cast a ballot at EIA.

An advance polling station at Edmonton International Airport during the 2019 Alberta election campaign. Tuesday, April 10, 2019.
An advance polling station at Edmonton International Airport during the 2019 Alberta election campaign. Tuesday, April 10, 2019. Courtesy, EIA
An advance polling station at Edmonton International Airport during the 2019 Alberta election campaign. Tuesday, April 10, 2019.
An advance polling station at Edmonton International Airport during the 2019 Alberta election campaign. Tuesday, April 10, 2019. Courtesy, EIA

Some residents have talked about difficulties they’ve been having when trying to vote.

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Some voters have received a voter card, but aren’t showing up in the system. Some rural residents have said it isn’t clear whether they’re supposed to vote in the area dictated by their postal code or by what’s known as their “911 address.” Others are concerned about the registration system at the advance polls that scans their driver’s licence.

Watch below: (From March 12, 2019) Kyle Benning reports on a new strategy to get more people to the polls for the 2019 Alberta election and how it’s helping university students.

Vote anywhere change allows Alberta university students to participate in election
Vote anywhere change allows Alberta university students to participate in election

Renwick said voters should follow the directions on their voter card, or they can go to any advance poll and vote that way. Residents need to bring a form of ID, but if they don’t want their ID scanned, poll workers can look voters up manually.

On Tuesday, Elections Alberta tweeted to remind voters that it’s illegal to post a picture of your ballot online. According to Renwick, anyone who does so could be fined up to $50,000, sentenced to two years in jail, or both.

Advance polls will be open across the province until Saturday evening, but not every advance poll is open every day. For more information on how, when and where to vote, click here.

The Alberta election will take place on April 16.

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Watch below: Elections Alberta is reminding voters of important dates. Christa Dao has more.

Advance polling stations open next week for Alberta spring election
Advance polling stations open next week for Alberta spring election
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