Helping journalists, producers and conference planners find the female guests, speakers and expert sources they need.

Boost in advance voters shows election ‘more exciting, more competitive’

The Calgary Herald with Melanee Thomas 17 April 2019

While official numbers have yet to be calculated, one Calgary political scientist says the fact three times the number of Albertans voted in advance polls leading up to Tuesday’s election than in 2015 suggests the electorate is engaged.

Melanee Thomas, assistant professor in the University of Calgary’s political science department, says the surge in numbers isn’t surprising given that people were allowed to vote anywhere in the province rather than only in their electoral division, with Elections Alberta opening 260 locations for the April 9 to 13 period.

Of the 696,000 people who voted in advance polls, 223,000 took advantage of the new rule. Thomas says this could simply be for convenience, in which case the 2019 turnout may not vary all that much, and in fact may even decrease compared to 2015’s 57.1 per cent. That turnout was the highest in 22 years. Voter turnout in 2012 was 54.4 per cent.

On the other hand, it could indicate voters see the 2019 election as particularly competitive.

“It’s not lost on me that 2012, 2015 and 2019 are all elections where there was at least some degree of narrative around change in government,” Thomas says. “When you haven’t done that since ’71, it does suggest that things are more competitive and more exciting.”

Alberta has traditionally had low turnout for provincial elections.

Thomas downplays the notion that the 2019 campaign was unusually nasty.

“I have seen things that are unprecedented, but I don’t think pointing out that candidates say things that seem to be offside in terms of equity and diversity, I don’t think pointing that out is nasty,” Thomas says.

Thomas said any boost in numbers this election would likely be due to specific constituencies being spurred into action. That could include younger, mostly male voters who are not in post-secondary studies and are concerned about the economy, which should bode well for the United Conservative Party. But she said there could also be a boost in left-leaning voters thanks to a viable left-wing choice, which is a relatively new political development in this province.

As of Tuesday evening, there were no reports of major issues at polling stations.

But results from Calgary-Acadia were expected to be delayed after St. Stephen School opened late because it was under lockdown. It was to remain open for an extra half-hour. Polls were to remain open an extra 15 minutes in Calgary-East after a fire alarm was pulled at Abbeydale School and it was evacuated. This was not expected to delay results in the riding.