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Nearly a third of Alberta's electorate voted in advance polls -- whatever can it mean?

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Alberta polling place sign. Photo: Kempton/Flickr

One of the mysteries of the 2019 Alberta election campaign that comes to an end with today's election is the truly astonishing number of advance ballots cast.

Nearly 700,000 Albertans voted in advance polls. That is close to 30 per cent of the electorate.

This is unheard of in Alberta, and almost certainly in the rest of the country as well, where growing voter apathy combined with vote suppression by conservative parties has been situation normal for years.

We can speculate about why so many people voted early this year, and what it means, but for the moment at least, speculation is all it is.

As a result, for a brief but happy moment, it can mean whatever you want it to! You can say whatever you like about what it means too, and no one can convincingly prove you wrong ... at least until the votes start to be tallied tonight.

Accordingly, if you listen to what you hear on social media, conservatives will tell you it is a massive vote against the government and a wave of support for United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney's Back-to-the-Future vision of the 1950s in the 2020s. New Democrats will say it's young people with cell phones unreachable by conventional pollsters flocking to a Rachel Notley's sustainable new Alberta.

Some others suspect it's just the same old mix of party activists, encouraged by new voting rules that made advance voting easier and even allowed voters to cast a ballot outside their electoral districts, and at the end of the count it'll be a wash.

Or maybe it's just that competitive elections in Alberta are still a novelty after 44 years of uninterrupted Progressive Conservative governments and 36 years of Social Credit before that.

It beats the heck out of me and I'm not going to venture a guess. It could mean a startling new twist to the conventional wisdom about voting in the Westminster Parliamentary system. Or not. The results tonight will probably tell us more. Or maybe not.

Of those advance votes, more than 220,000 vote-anywhere ballots won't even be counted until tomorrow night. That means in ridings with tight races and large numbers of advance ballots of this type, the decision won't be known for another day.

According to Elections Alberta, more than 70 of Alberta's 87 electoral districts have more than 1,000 of these vote-anywhere ballots. Eight have more than 5,000 and 28 show more than 10 per cent of the vote already waiting in ballot boxes.

So it's possible -- although unlikely -- we'll have to wait until Wednesday or even Thursday to find out who won!

Now, about John Horgan's studied indifference about Alberta's vote

Alert readers will have noticed the studied indifference about the principal rivals in Alberta's election by B.C. Premier John Horgan, a New Democrat, but one with significant differences with Rachel Notley.

"I will work with whoever comes out the other end," Horgan told the CBC, affecting a lack of interest that bordered on a North Pacific chill. "Will it be positive or negative? That's for the future to decide."

Count on it, Horgan has an opinion about this and his preference is most likely not Notley. As he well understands, nothing rallies the folks around the home team like a good enemy, and Kenney makes a far better one from the B.C. NDP perspective than the more sympathetic Notley, who has been able to move the dial considerably in that province on the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Having caved on LNG exports and the Site C Dam on the Peace River, Horgan may need to reestablish his environmental cred to stave off the danger of a Green sweep in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island in the not-too-distant future.

What better way to do that than a war with a Conservative who can be convincingly portrayed as a bully, a climate change denier, and an ally of your principal rival for control of the B.C. legislature?

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post is also found on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: Kempton/Flickr

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