Advance voting is proving a popular choice for Alberta voters during the 2023 provincial election and Lethbridge is no exception.
Tuesday was a record-breaking first day, with Elections Alberta reporting more than 160,000 ballots cast. That’s a 16 per cent increase from day one of advance polls during the 2019 general election.
As of Thursday afternoon, the site’s live vote counter, which estimates the number of electors who have voted based on information received by the voting place, was nearing 400,000.
Wendy Schlachter, returning officer for Lethbridge-West, and Krystal Winter, returning officer for Lethbridge-East, are pleased with the progress over the last few days.
“I feel like everything’s been going very smoothly,” Schlachter said. “We have really great site supervisors and wonderful teams, and everybody’s working really hard and very well.”
“Voter turnout has been great,” Winter added. “We’ve had really good, positive responses about people coming in and out very quick, and good experiences with the voting officers. We’ve had very little issues at either of the Lethbridge-East locations.”
Wynter Baker, 19, voted for the first time on Thursday with her parents at the Westminster Neighbourhood Association, one of several polling locations within the city.
“(It was) a lot simpler than I thought it was going to go.”
According to Elections Alberta, a total of 3,791 advance ballots were cast in Lethbridge’s electoral divisions in 2019. That was the first year electors could vote anywhere in the province during advance polls, meaning some of these ballots may have been cast by eligible voters who lived outside the city.
Local breakdowns on advance voting will not be available until after the election.
The organization’s data also shows the percentage of overall eligible voter turnout has increased in both Lethbridge ridings over the last few elections. The Lethbridge-East riding had a boost in turnout from 51 per cent in 2012, to 57.9 per cent in 2015, and 66.8 per cent in 2019.
In Lethbridge-West, those same years saw turnouts of 54.7 per cent, 62.5 per cent, and 68.7 per cent.
When asked whether or not advance polls may be favouring one of the parties running this year, political scientist Lori Williams said it’s hard to say.
“I don’t think we have a good sense one way or another. This really is a too-close-to call election and we don’t see a lot of those, so that makes it a bit more interesting,” the Mount Royal University associate professor explained.
“We are seeing large numbers but I’m expecting to see large numbers throughout simply because this is a competitive election. People have the sense that their vote could really make a difference.”
Election day is on Monday, May 29.
— With files from Destiny Meilleur, Global News