February 28th, 2024

Political expert weighs in on voter turnout, local results

By JAMES TUBB on May 31, 2023.


Like many Albertans trying to track the results of Monday’s general election, Jim Groom was surprised with how long it took for votes to be counted.

The political scientist instructor at Medicine Hat College was caught off guard by how long some ridings took to report counted votes while others rolled on like usual.

“We were looking at one point and Lethbridge East had one poll of 27 or so reported while Lethbridge West had 16 of 27 reported,” Groom said. “It just didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for it.”

On Tuesday, an Elections Alberta official told The Canadian Press a change in how advance “vote anywhere” ballots are counted contributed to the delay in getting the numbers out. There was only a small amount of results available 90 minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m. and it was another 90 minutes after that before a United Conservative Party win was called.

Fewer voters filled out ballots in Monday’s election as provincial and local turnout declined from 2019.

The Brooks-Medicine Hat riding, won by UCP Leader Danielle Smith, had a total of 20,025 ballots cast, down 2,405 from 2019. Cypress-Medicine Hat, won by UCP’s Justin Wright, had 21,794 ballots submitted, 2,785 fewer than in 2019. Provincially, there were a total of 1,763,441 cast at the 1,887 polling stations in Alberta, marking 133,101 fewer votes than were submitted in 2019.

“It’s unfortunate, it seems like people were engaged,” Groom said. “It’s been suggested when the last poll came out, it said the UCP had it in the bag, relatively speaking. So the suggestion is some people said, ‘I don’t need to go and vote, we’ve already won.’ So that’s one suggestion, I’m not sure how viable that is.

“For the province wide, I suppose there’s a few folks who are fighting fires out of their home and the last thing they’re thinking of is the election. I wouldn’t think that would cause such a drop.

“It struck me that this was a fundamental change in our politics and that everybody would want to get engaged in it. And I guess that’s not necessarily the case.”

Groom thought the Brooks-Medicine Hat election would have resembled the Nov. 8 byelection more than it did, as Smith received double the votes Monday as she did in late 2022 to gain the seat. He says local results show an unwavering support for UCP more than the desire to vote for the person running.

“Especially in Medicine Hat, we do tend to vote conservative no matter what else is offered, it’s been this way forever,” Groom said. “And I wouldn’t anticipate it would change really, really quickly.”

As for the province’s results as a whole, Groom says Alberta seems to have reverted to the old adage of the Conservative party advantage.

“Danielle Smith is a very flawed candidate, yet everyone was able to look past those flaws and the concerns and simply vote conservative,” Groom said. “We’re back to one party dominance and I don’t know how long that’ll stay but it seems to be the way Alberta is. If we go back to the Social Credit, they dominated for 34 years and then we had the Progressive Conservatives for 44 years. Now we’re almost back to the normal state of affairs where we have a party that’s won two in a row and there really is no opposition to them at this stage.”

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