Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she has “confidence” in Elections Alberta’s plan to use tabulators for the advanced vote in the upcoming provincial election because a recount will be possible if necessary. 

Her comments come after a group of motivated voters retained legal counsel, which argued last week that use of the tabulators would reduce election integrity. 

But, Smith says Elections Alberta will preserve all paper ballots in case a recount is requested. 

“I have confidence that because we have the ability to do a hand count as a follow up in the event there are close results, I believe that’s going to be sufficient,” Smith told True North in an unrelated press conference on Monday.

“That’s, I think, something that people expect in democracy – that you should be able to verify a vote if results end up very close.” 

Smith says jurisdictions elsewhere, like in the US, ran into issues when paper ballots were counted by a tabulator and not preserved after a vote.

Elections Alberta confirmed to True North that it will use electronic tabulators for the advanced vote in the upcoming provincial election. The agency said it will preserve all paper ballots, including those counted by tabulators, for three months following the date of the election or the date of a recount, as stipulated under the Election Act. 

Last week, Alberta litigator Leighton Grey of Grey Wowk Spencer LLP sent a letter to Elections Alberta saying he represents many residents who don’t want electronic voting machines used. 

Grey said the intention of the letter is to ensure that Elections Alberta intends to hand count the ballots and to keep all ballots for three months following election day.

“We want to make sure because this is really important… and we’re concerned that the result that comes out of it is accurate and correct and done according to law,”  he told True North.

Grey said that Rachel Notley’s government changed regulations in 2017 to allow for electronic tabulators. He said such machines were used in the Calgary municipal election. 

In his letter, Grey argued that electronic voting machines reduced confidence in the Calgary Municipal elections. He also said the results could not be appealed because the ballots were machine counted and then immediately destroyed. 

Elections Alberta said it can’t speak to elections in other jurisdictions, but added, “the preservation of ballots and all election documents is clearly stipulated in the act, which we are mandated to uphold.”

The agency also said it offers a Vote Anywhere Service, meaning electors anywhere in the province can show up at any voting place and receive a ballot for their electoral division.

“With 87 electoral divisions, tabulators are an essential component to how we manage all those different ballots as the alternative would require sorting and transporting hundreds of thousands of ballots prior to the count,” a spokesperson told True North.

The agency says tabulators are an essential part of how it delivers the vote, and without them, it would need to sort hundreds of thousands ballots into electoral divisions before counting.

“In 2019, all of the vote anywhere ballots were counted by a tabulator, but it was done at a centralized location and delayed the full unofficial results by several days,” the agency continued.


  • Rachel Emmanuel

    Rachel is a seasoned political reporter who’s covered government institutions from a variety of levels. A Carleton University journalism graduate, she was a multimedia reporter for three local Niagara newspapers. Her work has been published in the Toronto Star. Rachel was the inaugural recipient of the Political Matters internship, placing her at The Globe and Mail’s parliamentary bureau. She spent three years covering the federal government for iPolitics. Rachel is the Alberta correspondent for True North based in Edmonton.