If you are in a close race, Tuesday April 16th is going to be an agonizing night thanks to advance polls.
By 2015 Alberta had substantially reworked its advance polls including eliminating the requirement for early voters to state a reason they could not vote on election day. Acceptable responses were things like, travel and hospitalization. As a result of this liberalization of advance polling rules, Alberta had a huge 21% of its voters cast their ballots early in 2015.
In the 2019 Alberta Provincial election, the most notable changes to the advance poll rules were:
- Open more days
- Open on sequential days of Tuesday to Friday which means when your friend tells you they advance voted today you are less likely to forget to go tomorrow
- You can vote anywhere in the Province and not just at your local polling station
- Open longer hours, from 9am to 8pm
These changes have made advance voting a no-brainer for many.
We just discussed these trends with poll workers and found that in a community of approximately 10,000 voters, about 850 would vote today (Friday). The first day of advance polls was on Tuesday and that was the busiest. Wednesday and Thursday were understandably less but still busy. So, we can assume today’s number of 850 is a good average for each of the four days.
We calculate the simple math like this:
3,400 advance voters = 850 voters /day x 4 days
6500 actual voters = 65% of voters from pool of 10,000 eligible voters
52% of total ballots cast will cast in advance
This is nearly consistent with the early numbers released from Elections Alberta. On Wednesday alone, Alberta’s cast 136,000 ballots which is up a massive 50,000 ballots from 2015.
From experience and talking to those involved in the advance polls, it appears that approximately 25% of advance ballots are from people out of their polling region. Elections Alberta said that on the first two days of advance polls, 83,000 of 276,000 voters were from a different electoral district. This is about 30%.
Votes cast outside of their riding are not counted until after election night. This is because the ballot boxes are sealed until after 8pm on election day so they need to be sorted manually which is a pain.
Using our sample riding with 10,000 voters in it, that means 2500 votes will be cast outside the district. If your candidate is a few hundred votes ahead when all the local ballots are counted and there were still 2500 ‘out-of-riding’ votes uncounted, I would not want to call it race.
All this means that it will be very sustained stressful election night for some Alberta candidates, parties and constituents.