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Region witnesses record voter turnouts

Municipal election attracts unprecedented voter numbers in both counties and largest towns
MVT Municipal election
Sundre residents at the Sundre Community Centre on Monday, Oct. 18 to cast their ballots for the 2021 General Municipal Election, which inspired five record voter turnouts in the region, including for the towns of Innisfail, Olds, Sundre and for the counties of Red Deer and Mountain View. Simon Ducatel/MVP Staff

The region’s predominant towns and rural municipalities all had record voter turnouts in the 2021 General Municipal election on Oct. 18.

The towns of Innisfail, Olds and Sundre all made that claim for Election Day, as did Mountain View and Red Deer counties.

“This is the biggest turnout we have ever had,” said Sundre’s former mayor Terry Leslie. “The silent majority has spoken.”

Innisfail had a total vote count was 2,679. That was 41 per cent of 6,520 total eligible voters. In 2017, the total vote count was 1,967, 33 per cent of 5,932 total eligible voters.

“The voter turnout was huge this year. It is a record for the Town of Innisfail,” said Erica Vickers, the returning officer for Innisfail. “The line-ups were out the door, down the sidewalk for the entire day. People waited upwards to 30 to 45 minutes to stay in line and vote.”

The Olds election saw “the largest voter turnout the town has ever had”, said returning officer Marcie McKinnon.

She said of the approximately 7,270 people eligible to vote, 2,362 did so.

A total of 1,140 people voted in advanced polls and 1,222 did so on Election Day.

That’s way up from the 2017 election, when 1,704 people voted, according to Bill Johnston who served as returning officer at that time.

McKinnon was asked by The Albertan why the turnout was so high this time.

In an email, she said she had “no insight” as to why that might be the case, but “(I’m) very happy to see the citizens exercising their democratic right.”

McKinnon said given the results, she did not anticipate any recounts occurring in Olds.

The swearing in of the new councillors in Olds will occur on Monday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. at the beginning of the new council’s organizational meeting.

Betty Ann Fountain, returning officer for the Town of Sundre, said her town’s record-setting 2021 results showed an increase of nearly 200 eligible voters from the past two elections.

In 2013, there were 696 valid votes cast from a total of 2,024 eligible voters. That represents an almost 34.4 per cent turnout.

In the 2017 election, there were 694 valid votes from the same number of eligible voters, representing a nearly identical turnout.

The 2021 Sundre election saw the number of valid votes cast jump to 885, from an increased pool of eligible voters of 2,050. The turnout was just shy of 43.2 per cent.

In the rural municipalities, Mountain View County reported 3,801 voters across the municipality on election night, which is the highest ever. The 2010 general municipal election had the previous high with 3,638.

Red Deer County had a record voter turnout with 5,988 total voters out of 15,554 eligible voters, which is 38.17 per cent. There was a total of 5,977 voters for the mayoral vote, which is 38.43 per cent.

“The number of eligible voters is taken from the 2016 federal census numbers as that is the most recent data we have. Other than the 2017 election, we do not have record of previous voter turnouts,” said Nancy Lougheed, the county’s returning officer, said in an email to The Albertan.  “However, memory states that these are some of the highest turnouts we have experienced.  Definitely, the highest for the entire county.”

Meanwhile in other communities, the Town of Didsbury reported 1,667 residents voted, representing 38 per cent of those eligible, said returning officer Luana Smith. She said while totals were higher than in 2017, she did not know if 2021 figures were an all-time high.

Carstairs reported 1,667 voters in the 2021 municipal election, slightly more than in 2017 when 1,651 were counted. Shannon Allison, the town’s returning officer, said while the town had more votes than in the 2017 election, percentage-wise it was not the highest because the community has grown over the past several years.

Rudy Friesen, returning officer for Cremona and the village’s chief administrative officer, said there was no election in 2017 as the mayor and council at the time ran unopposed and were all acclaimed.

“The most recent election in Cremona was in 2013,” said Friesen.   “It is my understanding that there were 165-170 votes cast in that election.”

However, this past election — which saw incumbent mayor Tim Hagen re-elected for a third term — a total of 144 ballots were cast out of an eligible pool of about 400 voters, said Friesen.

That represents a voter turnout in 2021 of roughly 36 per cent, compared with 42.5 per cent in 2013, based on a population of about 400 eligible voters in both elections.

In Bowden, voter turnout was lower than in 2017 election, according to returning officer Greg Skotheim. He said this year, 372 ballots were cast, including those cast during the advance poll. In 2017, 389 ballots were cast, including those during the advance poll.

In area school board trustee elections, Sharla Heistad was reelected as Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board trustee for the QEII Ward, which covers an area from Innisfail in the north, down into Bowden and Olds and to Didsbury. Heistad defeated Fred Simoni by a vote of 268 to 99, bringing the total voter turnout to 367.

The Chinook’s Edge School Division held only two trustee elections as seven were acclaimed. The elections were held in Ward 1 – Sylvan Lake, and Ward 5 – Bowden/Spruce View. Ward 1 had 749 voters while Ward 5 had 1,001.

According to Chinook’s Edge, voter turnout in Bowden/Spruce View was higher at most of the seven polling stations than the 2017 election, about 45 per cent higher at two of the polling stations, 25 per cent higher at one, and 25 percent lower at another.

With files from Doug Collie, Simon Ducatel and Dan Singleton