Monday, April 27, 2015

Loss of polling centres in Lundbreck and Cowley a concern for Wildrose campaign manager

Chris Davis

Dennis Olson is a resident of Lundbreck and the campaign manager for Livingstone-Macleod Wildrose incumbent candidate Pat Stier. In an email to Returning Officer Blanche Schellenberg on April 22 of this year he said he was surprised to learn that polls traditionally located in Lundbreck and Cowley have been moved "to other centers at tremendous inconvenience to our local citizens".

Polls 34, 49, 50 and 51 are affected.  "These polls have been located in Lundbreck and Cowley as far back as the 1930’s!   Electoral counts of these polls are of 367 voters, 413 voters, 427 voters and 202 voters, would dictate that these numbers are at least average number counts so moving these polls wasn’t decided by the numbers."

"As a rural constituency, some of our voters will have to drive an extra 100 kms. to vote, much more than other polls in our constituency.  That extra time and mileage would probably mean that 60% of voters, that would normally vote, will now NOT vote - an insult to democracy in these two areas.  Also, some will interpret this move as a voter manipulation as the four polls selected to be moved had the highest percent of Wildrose votes in our Constituency. I am sure that is not the case but the speculation will be there!"

On April 24, after corresponding with Elections Alberta Operations and Communications Director Drew Westwater, Olson is still not satisfied with the answers.  In an email to Westwater Olson said, in part, "Thank you for your quick response but I am certainly concerned with your “no change” decision and with no explanation as to your reasonings on such."  Olson offered some self-generated statistics that seem to be reasonably accurate:

Poll 49 Lundbreck to MDM Centre return trip 30 min. (42 km).
Poll 34 Lundbreck to Horace Allen School return trip 52 min. (62 km).
Poll 50 Cowley to Canyon School return trip 40 min. (32 km).

"May I remind you that, because we are a rural area, some of our voters live approximately 30 km. from town so their total round trip in kilometers could be as high as 92 kms," said Olson.  "This change in voting polls for our two centers affected over 1200 voters so with these numbers it is clear the decision was not based on a low number of voters."

Keeping in mind that Olson is the Wildrose campaign manager for the area:

"Why were Lundbreck and Cowley targeted?  Something very fishy.  I had hoped that the mis-management and arrogant attitude that defines our present provincial government wouldn’t permeate Elections Alberta, a so-called “independent” body!

Until I receive a logical, well-defined explanation, I intend to pursue this until a satisfactory explanation is received. I await your reply!"

In response to our inquiry about the matters raised above, Elections Alberta Director of Election Operations and Communications Drew Westwater said "I am pleased to attach the list of polling places selected for the 2015 Provincial general Election in the Electoral Division of Livingston-Macleod as you requested."

"The polling locations were selected by the returning Officer prior to the writs of election being issued on April 7th, 2015, after a careful review of polling sub-division boundaries and the rural makeup of the population and the geography of the electoral division."

"All registered electors in the Electoral Division have received individual “Where to Vote” cards in the mail."

"We have advertised these polling locations in the local newspapers across the Electoral Division." (note: an advertisement to that effect did appear in last week's Pincher Creek Echo)

"The polling location for the residents of polling sub-division 49 which includes Lunbreck and Burmis is at the MDM Community Centre in Bellevue."

"The polling location for the residents of polling sub-division 50 which includes Cowley and Summerview is at the Canyon School in Pincher Creek."

"Thank you for your interest in the May 5th, Provincial General Election."

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