Election highs and lows: Good turnout, tardy results in St. Albert

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A higher-than-usual voter turnout in St. Albert saw 42.9 per cent of voters turn out to polling stations to cast their ballots before polls closed Monday night.

In all, 21,631 residents voted out of 50,423 eligible voters. The turnout tops all elections since 2004, when 46.13 per cent of voters cast ballots.

While unofficial results were released Monday night, official results will not be available until after noon on Friday. Outgoing mayor Nolan Crouse said he wasn’t surprised with the high turnout.

“That’s a testament to St. Albert’s interest,” he said.

“I’m really happy the voter turnout was what it was.”

Advance polls opened Oct. 5 and closed Oct. 14. Chief returning officer Chris Belke said nearly five times as many people voted in advance polls this year, compared to the last election in 2013.

In all, 6,594 people voted in the advance polls, compared to 1,338 people in 2013.

Belke said the city changed the way it holds advance polls this year by keeping them open for eight hours instead of closing them after three or four hours. Also, on Oct. 5 and 14, the city held advance polls at two locations instead of one.

“It’s not really a fair comparison (with 2013) because the methodology was quite different,” he said.

Despite few reported complaints and no irregularities at the polls, Monday night was fraught with delays as election staff verified the results. Polls closed at 8 p.m. but results were not released until almost 10:30.

The tardy results and lack of information from the city, coupled with the city’s decision not to report incremental results, led to rampant satirical speculation on social media as to what could have caused the delay, as well as genuine frustration and impatience among candidates, supporters and scrutineers.

Belke said the late results were a byproduct of how many candidates there were on the ballot.

“We had a very deliberate process for verification of the numbers, which was done for every result that came through, but with the number of candidates we had, it extended that process,” he said.

“That was something we should have anticipated that we weren’t really prepared for.”

Belke said the city will be doing a full review of the entire process in order to find ways to improve in the future.

Crouse called the situation “unacceptable” and said the various issues – from late results to lack of updates from the city – were embarrassing for the city. He said he was also disappointed by the city’s decision not to release live results.

He said he is looking to issue a notice of motion before he leaves office so the new council will need to debate on an election policy. Currently, there is no policy for how the city handles elections.

“This reinforces the need for council to get to a governance level and have administration develop a policy on the types of things that need to go on on election day,” he said.

“This is my fifth election that I’ve been involved in … and four of the five were unacceptable in terms of reporting. Something has to change.”

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