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    Categories: Provincial Election

A buzz in the air as voters head to the polls

Thousands of St. Albertans like Susan Johnson cast their votes on May 5.

In a provincial election that has been one of the most hotly contested in recent memory, there are early indications Alberta will have seen record voter turnout when all the dust settles.

While final results were unavailable by print deadline, the numbers from advance polls suggest Alberta could be on track for a record turnout.

Province-wide, more than 235,000 voters cast their ballots early. This is a 30-per-cent jump from about 180,000 in 2012 and just approximately 64,000 in 2008.

In the local constituencies, close to 15,000 people cast their ballots on one of the four advance-poll days from Wednesday to Saturday last week: 4,312 in St. Albert, 4,753 in Spruce Grove-St. Albert, 2,470 in Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater, and 3,488 in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock.

Outside the St. Albert United Church on May 5, voters expressed a combination of excitement and trepidation about what might be the results once all the dust settles, but everyone The Gazette spoke to said they were happy to see so many people engaged in this election.

For Sue Jayne, this was the first election she voted in since moving to Alberta from Yellowknife in 2001.

She said health care and education have been the big issues for her this election, and she decided she had to get involved this time around.

“It’s a little hard to say why,” she said. “I just wanted to be heard.”

One voter, a senior who asked not to be named since she’s a “long-time rabble-rouser” in St. Albert, said she hoped to see change this election, but more than that she hoped to see more youth taking their democratic responsibility seriously.

“What I’m hoping for is to see more younger people,” she said. “It’s going to affect them more than my husband and I.”

For Kendra Steedsman and Katherine Hagan, both 23, this is the first election for which they have seen their peer group so engaged.

“We were discussing on the way here; we were shocked at how many young people are voting,” Steedsman said. “Our Facebook is absolutely blowing up with people our age getting the word out.”

Hagan said both on social media and in person, friends who are normally not incredibly politically engaged have been passionate about the issues during this election.

“Our discussions when we’re hanging out with our friends for the past couple of weeks have been very political, and I’m not by any means a political person or extremely involved,” Hagan said. “It’s extremely exciting.”

Susan Lamb said this election is “critical” to Alberta’s future, and said while she’s a regular voter she’s been paying more attention to this election than most others in recent memory, in part because of the polls suggesting a change of government could be possible.

“My gut feeling is that people are just tired of the abuse, but I don’t know,” she said. “Regardless of the result, I think Alberta and Canada are in for a scary situation politically.”

For complete election coverage in St. Albert, visit www.stalbertgazette.com.

Doug Neuman: