Low voter turnout in Alberta election being questioned

As Premier Ed Stelmach and Alberta Conservatives savour their sweeping election victory, some people are raising a nagging concern: why so few people bothered to vote.

As Premier Ed Stelmach and Alberta Conservatives savour their sweeping election victory, some people are raising a nagging concern: why so few people bothered to vote.

Only 41 per cent of the province's 2,252,104 eligible voters cast ballots in Monday's election, a record low.

"It's rather exceptional," Peter Loewen, an associate at the University of Montreal's Canada Research Chair of Electoral Studies told CBC News on Wednesday. He said the figure is the lowest turnout for a Canadian provincial election in the last 50 years.

Alberta is not alone in seeing the downward trend in voting, particularly with the younger population, he said. It's a problem Loewen thinks will only get worse.

"If you don't vote in your first election, we know it means you won't vote in your second one or your third one. It's habit forming," he said.

Stelmach also concerned

Despite taking 72 of 83 seats, Stelmach also expressed worries Tuesday about the number of no-shows.

"On a day that we lost a young soldier born and raised in Edmonton, it is a bit disappointing because that's what people fight for, the democratic right to vote," he said.

Others are questioning the whether the traditional system of electing candidates is serving the best interests of Albertans.

"Many of my acquaintances who lean toward the policies of the Green, NDP or Liberal parties have ceased voting. They say their votes would be wasted under the current first-past-the-post system," Edmonton voter Richard Rehman said.

"Had the seat count been determined by popular vote, we would see: PCs 44; Liberal 21; NDP 8; Alliance 6; Green 4. This would be a much more representative government," he added.

The Tory landslide left the opposition parties in disarray, reducing the Liberals from 16 seats to nine, and cutting the four-seat NDP caucus in half.

Don't have to vote: political scientist

But voters in a democracy also have a right to not vote if they choose, political scientist Duane Bratt of Calgary's Mount Royal College said Wednesday.

"I don't think that we should be berating these people or say they don't respect democracy," said Bratt.

People may just be expressing their satisfaction with the government in power, he said.

"I think the decision not to vote should be just as important as the decision to vote."