Low turnout blamed on harvest time, voter uncertainty

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  • Sep. 21, 2011 2:00 p.m.

JOHN MACNEIL

Independent editor

Much like elsewhere in the province, Tories in Stettler and area mostly stayed home Saturday as the governing provincial party staged the first round of voting for a new leader and premier of Alberta.

The poll at Stettler Recreation Centre attracted 160 voters from the Drumheller-Stettler constituency. It was a far cry from the numbers posted in 2006 when Premier Ed Stelmach was elected leader of the Progressive Conservatives.

“They’re down substantially from 2006,” said party member Yvette Cassidy, the deputy returning officer for the Drumheller-Stettler constituency.

“We had 400 votes cast, and that includes the advance polls, throughout the entire Drumheller-Stettler constituency. So it was pretty disappointing.”

It was a similar story across the province as the 59,359 voters Saturday accounted for less than two-thirds of those who showed up in November 2006 to pick Stelmach to lead the province.

Those who did cast ballots this past weekend cut the field of candidates in half, with Gary Mar, Alison Redford and Doug Horner surviving to advance to the Oct. 1 decisive vote.

Cassidy, who is from Big Valley, was frank in her assessment of what hurt the party on a sunny Saturday in September.

“It’s probably not the best time to have an election, because people are in the field,” she said.

“I also think there is a lot of voter apathy out there. I think there’s a lot of people that really don’t know which (party) they want to support — PCs or Wild Rose.”

“I think it’s huge right now. I think people are really undecided on who they can get the best representation from.”

The Stettler poll and those across the province were open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., but that was of little accommodation to those people who were busy harvesting.

“You’d think they’d be a little smarter than that and know when harvest is,” one Drumheller-Stettler constituent said after he cast his ballot Saturday. “Towards the end of October would have been better, even if there is a little snow on the ground then.”

“But it’ll work out. In two weeks, more people will likely be able to get out.”

The runoff vote will determine a champion.

Mar took 41 per cent of the opening-round vote, while Redford gained 19 per cent and Horner garnered 14.5 per cent.

Mar added more support Monday when two of the defeated candidates — Ted Morton and Rick Orman —sided with the front-runner.

Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths, who finished last in the first ballot, announced Tuesday that he also has added his support to Mar.

Cabinet minister Jack Hayden is the MLA for the far-reaching Drumheller-Stettler riding.

The low turnout in Stettler was reflective of the trend not only across Alberta, but also elsewhere in the local constituency.

Drumheller’s polling station, including an advance poll, attracted 110 voters, while 44 turned out to vote in Hanna, and less than 30 voted in each of the Oyen and Consort polls.

BY THE NUMBERS

First-ballot results from the Alberta Progressive Conservative Association leadership race Saturday, with the 400 votes from Drumheller-Stettler constituents noted in parentheses:

Gary Mar 24,195 (100) 40.76%

Alison Redford 11,127 (47) 18.75%

Doug Horner 8,635 (91) 14.55%

Ted Morton 6,962 (67) 11.73%

Rick Orman 6,005 (16) 10.12%

Doug Griffiths 2,435 (79) 4.10%

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