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Alberta advance vote surges as parties push for election edge

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More than half a million Albertans have cast an advance ballot ahead of Monday's provincial election.

That's a voting rate that should break the previous record of roughly 696,000 people, set in 2019.

Much of the push is likely spurred on by Elections Alberta's "Vote Anywhere" system. It lets the electorate to cast a ballot in a different district from their own, but only during the advance voting period this week.

The convenience has allowed voters to head to the polling stations whenever – and wherever – they want.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

So, is all the advance voting an indication that Albertans are politically engaged and the race is tight?

Not necessarily, says University of Waterloo political scientist Peter Woolstencroft.

He says we just don't have enough data to make a conclusion.

"The real question is 'are there people coming to vote in the advance polls that would not vote on Monday?"' he said.

While high turnout has historically meant a "change election" is on the way, Woolstencroft says this year, that'll largely be dependant on Alberta's youth. If they vote – and vote the way they're projected to – then Monday could mark a new NDP era for the province.

"We don't know how many young people are showing up at the advance polls, but if they are there in some considerable faction, then that's perhaps a tell and a sign that something is afoot."

It's somewhat of a double-edged sword for the NDP: the party wants hesitant conservatives to stay home, but also needs to tap into a part of the electorate it hasn't before.

Woolstencroft believes, either way, the province wins.

"Alberta is becoming a modern system," he said, "the kind we want: competitive parties with clear options, one way or the other. It was notorious for low turnout in sweeps across the province, (but) that's no longer the norm."

SECURE VOTE

Elections Alberta also wants to dispel any myths about the advance vote – or any vote, for that matter – being compromised.

The non-partisan, provincial body uses tabulators during the advance week.

They couldn't be safer says spokesperson Robyn Bell.

"We have so many security measures and safety guards in place to maintain the integrity of the vote," she told CTV News.

That includes never connecting the machines to a network and always storing them in secure areas.

The tabulators are also triple-checked before they're used.

"We do conduct logic and accuracy testing before and after the close of voting," Bell said. "That's done in the presence of candidates and their scrutineers."

Mail-in and Election Day ballots are counted by hand.

The only time the paper ballots will receive the same treatment is if there is a judicial call for a recount.

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