Elections Calgary to use electronic vote tabulators for 1st time at Olympic plebiscite

It's the first plebiscite since 1998 — one that was part of a general election — and the first standalone plebiscite as far as anyone can remember.

Returning officer says they've learned lessons from 2017 election marred by ballot shortages, long waits

Elections Calgary says it's using electronic vote tabulators for the first time for the 2018 Olympic plebiscite. (City of Calgary/Twitter)

Calgarians will be asked to vote Nov. 13 on whether or not they want to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.

The city says it's ready for the process, and it's bringing in some new technology for the occasion.

It's the first plebiscite since 1998 — one that was part of a general election — and the first standalone plebiscite as far as anyone can remember. Not even Election Calgary's returning officer, Laura Kennedy, knew the last time one took place.

The vote is non-binding, meaning city council could choose to ignore the results. 

Voters will be asked to mark one of two options:

  • I am for Calgary hosting.
  • I am against Calgary hosting.

New voting machines

New for the plebiscite is the use of vote tabulating machines, versus the old hand-counted method previously used. The machines are used in municipalities across Alberta, Kennedy said. 

She says the machines have been tested and she's confident there won't be any technical glitches. 

"It went through three days of testing and they've now been locked down in preparation for the vote," said Kennedy. 

Results will be announced the night of Nov. 13, but there won't be running tallies as there are during regular elections. Kennedy says the final results will be revealed by at least 10 p.m.

Lessons learned from 2017

Kennedy says they've already received 5,000 mail-in ballot requests, more than for last year's election. 

She says that doesn't necessarily indicate greater turnout but notes Elections Calgary is prepared for an onslaught. Kennedy says Elections Calgary has learned from the 2017 election that featured long waits and a shortage of ballots. 

Laura Kennedy, the returning officer for Elections Calgary, says her team is ready for the Olympic plebiscite on Nov. 13. (Mike Symington/CBC)

"Early on, I identified some of the issues that happened in 2017. I obtained the number of eligible voters in Calgary from Elections Alberta and their list indicated that there was 765,000-plus eligible voters in Calgary versus the 666,000 that we prepared for last year," said Kennedy. 

"So we are prepared for all 100 per cent of those 765,000 voters to come out and vote and we have more ballots than we need."

There will be voting stations in every ward, and advance polling is available this Tuesday and Wednesday (Nov. 6-7) across the city. 

More information on where, when and how to vote is available on the Elections Calgary website

LIVE EVENT: CBC Calgary Olympic Games Plebiscite Town Hall

If you live in Calgary, find out what you need to know before you cast your vote in the Nov. 13 plebiscite by tuning in to the CBC Calgary Olympic Games Plebiscite Town Hall.

Featuring a knowledgeable panel and hosted by the Calgary Eyeopener's David Gray, we will hear from both sides and take questions from the audience. Panellists include:

  • Calgary 2026 CEO Mary Moran.
  • Yes Calgary 2026 organizer Jason Ribeiro.
  • Coun. Evan Woolley, chair of city council's Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games assessment committee.
  • Economist with the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy, Trevor Tombe.
  • No Calgary Olympics organizer Jeanne Milne.
  • David Finch, associate professor at Mount Royal University's Bissett School of Business.

It'll take place at Calgary's new Central Library (800 3rd St. S.E.) on Wednesday, Nov. 7, starting at 6 p.m. All of the reserved tickets have been claimed, although there will be rush seating available at 6:15 p.m. as capacity allows.

Didn't get a ticket? Never fear, you can tune in by:

  • Joining our Facebook Live at, where you can ask questions and post comments.
  • Watching the Facebook Live on our regular website and app.
  • Listening in on CBC Radio One (99.1 FM or 1010 AM in Calgary), at or your CBC Radio App from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. MT.