Despite the fact that votes for the 2019 Alberta election will start being counted at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, voters may have to wait to find out what their next government will look like, at least for some ridings.
Of the record-breaking nearly 700,000 Albertans that cast advance ballots last week, more than 223,000 were cast at a polling station that was outside the voter’s riding, according to Elections Alberta. Officials won’t start counting those “vote anywhere” ballots until Wednesday afternoon, meaning final results aren’t expected until days later.
That could mean some key battlegrounds could be too close to call on election night.
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According to Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt, those votes count for about 10 per cent of eligible voters; Elections Alberta said there are about 2.7 million eligible voters in the province. Considering not everyone votes, Bratt said those numbers could count for 20 per cent of those who actually cast a ballot.
“It might mean that we could make an election call on who is going to form government, but there may be ridings in play,” Bratt said. “Or it could mean no election call until we get an official ruling.”
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Calgary ridings had eight of the 10 the highest “vote anywhere” turnouts across the province, according to Elections Alberta information released Monday.
Voters across the province cast the highest number — 7,397 — for the riding of Calgary-Foothills, Elections Alberta data showed.
Liberal Party Leader David Khan is running in Calgary-Mountain View, which was the only riding the Liberals won in 2015, when then-leader David Swann secured the seat.
The UCP had to make a last-minute shuffle to its candidate in that riding, after Caylan Ford resigned when comments she made online about race and white supremacist terrorists surfaced in March. She was replaced by Jeremy Wong.
The NDP moved well-known MLA and Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley to represent that riding, a shift from the Calgary-Buffalo riding where she was first elected in 2015.
NDP incumbent Joe Ceci, who served as finance minister since 2015, is hoping to secure his seat in Calgary-Buffalo for a second term.
In Calgary-Elbow, former Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark is also hoping for re-election.
Bratt said many people like the convenience of being able to vote ahead of time, and anywhere in the province, but voters may grow impatient if there are a lot of outstanding ridings come election night.
Even though the advance polls ended on Saturday, Bratt said it would be problematic to count votes before the polls close.
“[Results] would leak out,” Bratt said. “Because you’d have scrutineers watching, they would text, those would go all out, which would damage the integrity of the vote.
“The second is, I’m not sure Elections Alberta has the human resources to be able to do all of that when they’ve got to set up for election day.”
Bratt said most out-of-district votes were likely cast in Alberta’s two biggest cities, simply because it’s easier to move between the ridings.
“If you are in Lesser Slave Lake, to be able to drive out of your riding is more difficult than to go from [Calgary-Currie] to [Calgary-Elbow] to [Calgary-]Varsity,” he said.
Bratt said this would be the first election he’s involved in where voters may have to wait for an end result, especially in Alberta.
Bratt said he’s projecting a 60 per cent voter turnout for the election.
Global News Decision Alberta election coverage begins at 7 p.m. MT on Tuesday, April 16, online, on television and on radio. Polls close at 8 p.m.
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