Get out the vote efforts go high-tech in Alberta byelections

EDMONTON – As Edmonton-Whitemud polls open Monday morning, party workers armed with cellphones, mobile apps and old-style placards will launch an intense, last-ditch battle to get out their vote in the crucial byelection.

Liberal and Wildrose parties are keeping candidates highly visible — Donna Wilson (in Liberal red) and the Wildrose’s Tim Grover will be waving to commuters at busy intersections Monday morning — while Conservative candidate Stephen Mandel keeps a low profile, meeting with volunteers running phone lines.

Alberta Party workers charged their cellphones to upload a new app, a constituency map with GPS and voter addresses, that tracks whether their supporters have voted. If not, a volunteer heads to the doorstep to ensure support for William Munsey.

New Democrat volunteers have all watched an old Republican party video with Ronald Reagan and John Wayne stressing the importance of getting every voter to the polls — “because picking up a few extra votes in every poll can make a big difference,� said veteran campaign organizer Brian Stokes.

For Green party candidate Rene Malefant, however, the campaigning is done. He had to be back at work Monday morning.

“I have classes to teach today,� said the biology PhD student and teaching assistant at the University of Alberta.

The Whitemud race and three byelections in Calgary are being billed as an early test for Premier Jim Prentice, who is running for a seat in Calgary-Foothills.

Three of the ridings are homes to four former premiers — Dave Hancock and Don Getty in Whitemud, Alison Redford and the late Ralph Klein in Calgary-Elbow and the late Peter Lougheed in Calgary West.

So the opposition parties are facing off in Tory strongholds, said Vitor Marciano, organizer for the Wildrose. His party received 16 per cent of the vote in Whitemud in the 2012 election, the second highest tally, while the Liberals were next at 12 per cent. The NDP polled nine per cent and the Alberta Party 2.3 per cent. The Tories won with 60 per cent of the vote.

While Whitemud, an affluent southwest city riding, has often had slightly higher voter turnout, byelections generally draw fewer voters — though this one has been hard-fought, Marciano added.

All parties say there are no secret techniques to getting out the vote. It’s just a lot of detailed grunt work tracking supporters identified in the last three weeks, said Stokes, adding that NDP candidate Bob Turner will be going door to door.

But there are, to be sure, still some secrets — no party will say how many volunteers they have or how many supporters they identified during their door-knocking in the past four weeks.

“Nope, nope, can’t tell you that,� said Peter Oliver of the Alberta Party campaign in Calgary-Elbow.

He did say that old style checklists are a thing of the past and fewer people are asking for a ride these days.

It’s all about the mobile apps and “we figure we can get out 80- to 90 per cent of our identified support,� said Oliver.

Meanwhile, in Whitemud, though the Liberal campaign office is right across the road from the Conservatives, “we’re not watching them,� said Liberal campaign co-chair Harpreet Gill.

He also said if the weather is cold and snowy, volunteers will be ready for more requests for a ride to the polls.

“You have to go all out for your candidate and get out your support,� said Gill.

Polls close at 8 p.m.

spratt@edmontonjournal.com

Byelection details

Polling stations open Monday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Each registered voter was sent a Where to Vote card from Elections Alberta. If you aren’t sure where to cast your ballot, phone 780-422-VOTE (8683).

Registered voters should bring their Notice of Voter Registration cards with them to the polls. Voters who aren’t registered must prove their name and address with supporting documents.

Election results are expected to begin rolling in around 8:15 p.m., with advance ballots being counted first

Go to edmontonjournal.com for live election results Monday night.

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