Nearly one in five ballots spoiled in Alberta Senate elections

Close to 170,000 Alberta voters rejected or spoiled their ballots in last month's Senate elections

Official election results released Thursday showed almost 20 per cent of Albertans voting last month rejected or spoiled their ballots for electing federal senators-in-waiting.

More than 170,000 Albertans, or nearly 19.3 per cent of the total number of those who went to the polls on Nov. 22, rejected or spoiled their ballots.

Alberta's chief election officer Brian Fjeldheim said 85,937 people declined to take a senate ballot, and another 84,643 either filled them out improperly or intentionally marked them so they couldn't be counted.

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Almost 714,709 Albertans did cast valid votes and elected Progressive Conservative candidates Betty Unger, Bert Brown and Cliff Breitkreuz, as well as independent candidate Link Byfield.

Half of the province's six Senate seats are empty, but Prime Minister Paul Martin has said that he does not intend to appoint the winners of the elections. Martin has argued against "piecemeal" senate reform.

Alberta's third election for senators, held concurrently with Alberta's legislative election won by Klein's conservatives, cost nearly $2.9 million.

Voter turnout for the overall election was at a historic low of about 46 per cent, while the senate election turnout was around 35 per cent.

Fjeldheim said he couldn't say whether interest in the senators-in-waiting had dropped since the vote was held in 1998, because no records were kept on how many people declined or spoiled their ballots in that election.

Official election results for the 83 members of the Alberta legislature will be released later Thursday.

But the final result in Edmonton-Castledowns riding will be left to a judicial recount later in December.