Election Act gates set to fall
329. No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.
In an election where strategic voting sits front and centre, it seems like the Election Act gates are about to fall with a resounding thud across the land today. Bloggers across the land are lined up to relay results across the time zones.
The battle began in 2000, when BC blogger Paul Bryan deliberately broke the rules. The justice system responded swiftly and decisively. He was charged and faced a maximum fine of $25,000.
Bryan headed off to court with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in hand, arguing his right to free expression. The BC Supreme Court agreed the Act infringed on his rights, and he was acquitted. But that's not the end of the story. In January 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada overruled the decision, placing the ban back in place.
A ban on publishing results isn't the only ban in place. Throughout history, politicians have sought to limit the potential influence of the media and mass communications on voter choices. For example, new opinion poll results may not be published or broadcast on election day. At one time the ban extended up to three days before the election.
The theory is that each voter should be a blank slate. Strategic voters counter-argue that information is power, and that denying information takes power from the hands of voters.
There's also the finger-in-the-dyke argument: the information age has burst through, making attempts to control the situation wholly futile, and the persecution of individual bloggers unnecessarily punitive. For the most part, we all have Internet access, we all have telephones, we all have friends in far places, and therefore we're all potentially guilty.
With vote-swapping being coordinated across the country through a number of web-based groups, many voters will be trolling for online polling results this evening. And it's doubtful they'll have difficulty finding what they seek.
At the end of the day, voters aren't blank slates, nor should they be.