Election Act:

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. Elections Canada has already softened the blow with changes to polling times, there are still gaps in the timing of poll closures.

Election Act:

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 For example, new opinion poll results may not
be published or broadcast on election day.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.

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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.

Patricia W. Elliott is a magazine journalist and assistant professor at the School of Journalism, University of Regina. You can visit her at patriciaelliott.ca.